Lawsuit: Part of man's penis "obliterated" in botched surgery

by: Monique Ming Laven Updated:

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Virginia Mason Hospital faces a new lawsuit about alleged medical battery at the hands of its surgeons. 

The suit comes directly from a doctor who practices there, and it also claims that alterations had been made to hospital paperwork related to the case.

Sarah Hipps is an anesthesiologist. She says she has practiced at Virginia Mason for about 15 years. She was not working on the case in question, but she had a very personal connection to it: it involved her husband, Matthew Hipps.

About 18 months ago, Matthew was diagnosed with abdominal cancer. Sarah says when they decided to stay local for his treatment, she hand-picked his medical team because she was so familiar with the staff.

The lawsuit, filed Friday, says that Matthew was scheduled to get his tumor removed Feb. 11, 2013. It also says before doctors could remove the tumor, they had determined Matthew needed a stent put in his right ureter, which is between the bladder and the kidney. A urologist would have to perform that part of the procedure, going through the penis to get to the ureter. The lawsuit claims that Sarah had chosen Dr. Kathleen Kobashi to perform the procedure. Kobashi is the head of the Urology Department at Virginia Mason.

The lawsuit alleges that on the morning of the surgery, Virginia Mason staff told Sarah and Matthew that Kobashi was running late, but was on her way. In the meantime, her fellow (a surgeon training under her), Dr. Chong Choe would explain the procedure to them and go over the consent form. Sarah and Matthew claim they were very explicit with Choe that he only had permission to go over the consent form with them, and that he was not to perform the stent procedure himself. The Hipps claim they were very conscious of the consent form, in part because Choe had improperly written down that it was a bilateral ureteral procedure, when it was just for Matthew's right side. They had him correct that on the consent form.

After the surgery, the lawsuit claims Matthew was in severe pain. The Hipps say Virginia Mason did not address the problems before Matthew was discharged.

Several weeks later, the Hipps say they went to another doctor outside of Virginia Mason, and it was determined that Matthew's urethra had been obliterated during the stent procedure.

Sarah claims when she went back to Virginia Mason to try to find out why what had happened, she found out Choe had performed the procedure. The lawsuit says the surgeon the Hipps had chosen to do the procedure, Kobashi had never shown up in the operating room.

Matthew had to have surgical repair of his penis, involving a multi-stage process that took several months. The lawsuit claims that despite this surgical repair, Matthew was left with "pain, disability, and disfigurement."

The Hipps' lawsuit also claims when they asked to see the consent form for Matthew's procedure, they were sent a copy, and it had been altered. They claim on the line that showed they approved Kobashi to do the procedure, Choe's name had been added on later. The Hipps say they asked to see the original consent form, and the hospital told them it had been destroyed.

Destroying original records is allowable by state law once an electronic file has been made, but the Hipps claim the electronic file camouflages the fact that Choe's name was added later.

They are now suing Virginia Mason and Choe. Click here to read a copy of Hipps' lawsuit against Virginia Mason.

KIRO 7 has contacted Virginia Mason for comment on the lawsuit. A spokesperson says the hospital and Choe and Kobashi refuse comment. In a written statement they say, in part, "We disagree with the allegations in the lawsuit and are prepared to defend our position in the legal system."

We have included the complaint filed by the Hipps and the statement issued by Virginia Mason.

Full statement from Virginia Mason

At Virginia Mason we strive to provide all patients with the highest quality and safest care possible. Virginia Mason takes any patient concern or complaint very seriously. Input from our patients and their families helps us ensure we are providing the best care possible. The vast majority of our patients are satisfied with their care. In the rare instance when there is a concern about their care, we have a process in place to carefully review each case to fully understand the facts. Out of respect for patient privacy, we are unable to discuss the details of this particular case. In addition, we do not share information about pending litigation. We disagree with the allegations in the lawsuit and are prepared to defend our position in the legal system.

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