A medical malpractice trial is under way against a prominent gynecologist alleged to have botched a robotic surgery.
Dr. Daniel Laury is defending a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court by a Montana woman who claims Laury was grossly negligent when he removed her healthy ovary in 2007 using a da Vinci robotic device and left a piece of plastic behind in her body.
The plaintiffs, Michelle Elsey and husband, Toby Elsey, are suing Laury for more than $1 million.
Jurors Wednesday heard expert testimony from a Portland gynecologist on Laury's behalf. Dr. Michael Lee testified that none of the surgical staff at Providence Medford Medical Center informed Laury of problems with the robotic equipment following Elsey's Sept. 28 surgery. Hospital records, however, indicate the robot malfunctioned, requiring a reload, according to Elsey's complaint. Providence is not a party in the suit.
Robot arms are the responsibility of hospital operating-room staff, who manage the machinery's contact with patients while physicians work in a console about 10 feet away, said Lee. The small plastic part that later was discovered freely floating in Elsey's pelvis likely would not cause the pain she claimed to suffer, said Lee.
Elsey was unaware of foreign objects in her body until 2011, after she had moved away from the Rogue Valley. A CT scan ordered by a Bozeman Mont., doctor revealed a laparoscopy sheath used in the 2007 surgery, as well as extraneous coils used as birth-control devices. Montana physicians subsequently removed the objects from Elsey's body.
While under Laury's care for pelvic pain, Elsey had consented to the surgical removal of her right ovary and fallopian tube, as well as her appendix. But she alleges the organs were deemed normal and functioning following the surgery. Laury already had performed a sterilization procedure on Elsey in April 2007.
Healthy organs can cause pain simply because of their normal interaction with other anatomy, such as blood vessels, said Lee, explaining that he has removed a "so-called healthy ovary" hundreds of times throughout his career for various reasons. Leaving one ovary intact ensures hormone production, he said.
"We have to measure the pros and cons, the advantages and disadvantages," he said. "In this instance, this was one of the options.
"We don't take these things out wantonly."
Laury already had examined Elsey's other organs — including her bladder — trying to pinpoint the pain, said Lee. A common condition, pelvic pain can arise from any of four systems within the body, he said. During Elsey's April surgery, Laury detected inflammation in her bowel, said Lee.
"Just about every stone had been turned over," he said. "It's a matter of really being a detective."
Laury's practice had been scrutinized, however, before Elsey's suit. The Oregon Medical Board in 2004 ordered corrective action against Laury following an investigation into his change in privilege status at Providence and the now Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center, according to documents on file with the state.
Neither admitting nor denying any violation of the Medical Practice Act, Laury agreed to review his hysterectomy procedures, work with a physician mentor and continue treatment with a psychiatrist and psychotherapist, among other conditions. Laury's mental-health providers were required to report to the board on Laury's "fitness to safely practice medicine," according the order. The board discontinued its action against Laury in January 2006.
Now listing his practice in Hermiston, Laury has been quoted in several newspaper articles about women's health and robotic surgery, and he appeared on Jackson County radio and television programs, including hosting an RVTV show, "The Doctor is Listening."
The trial before District Court Judge Owen M. Panner is scheduled to resume today.
Reach reporter Sarah Lemon at 541-776-4487 or firstname.lastname@example.org.