If you think being able to file a medical malpractice claim means that a doctor had to have caused you injury during a procedure or misdiagnosed your illness, think again. A man in Virginia was just awarded $500,000 for not a medical mistake, but what could be chalked up to as unprofessionalism.
Here’s what happened. A man went into went into the hospital for a routine colonoscopy. Like many of us, he was concerned that he would be too groggy after waking up to remember his doctor’s go-home instructions. He turned on his cellphone and set it to the side to record his doctor.
Turning on his recording on the way home, the man realized that he had recorded his anesthesiologist and doctor having a conversation that wasn’t altogether flattering. In fact, the pair were openly mocking the man.
Anesthesiologist Tiffany Ingham can be heard on the recording calling the patient a “retard” and a “wimp.” Together, the two joked about how long it had taken the man to change clothes, and about giving him false information once he awoke. Ingham says, “Really, after five minutes of talking to you in pre-op I wanted to punch you in the face and man you up a little bit.”
The doctor and anesthesiologist also joked about a rash on the man, calling it syphilis and warning a medical assistant not to touch it. The man does not have syphilis.
The man, who has chosen to keep his name out of the media, hired a lawyer and sued for defamation and malpractice. A Fairfax County jury awarded him $200,000 for malpractice, $50,000 a piece for two statements, including the one made about syphilis, and $200,000 in punitive damages. The man had sued for more than $5 million.
Although Ingham nor her attorney could be reached for comment, the company that Ingham worked for told reporters that she was no longer employed by them. Ingham’s attorney argued that the recording was inadmissible because Ingham did not know she was being recorded. The judge disagreed. Virginia law states that at least one party must consent to use of a recorder.
There have not been many cases of this nature. It is thought that the jurors were cognizant of the fact that the people who were supposed to be looking out for the patient were the ones speaking ill of that patient.