Atlanta Malpractice Verdict of $2.3M for Negligence During Circumcision

An Atlanta jury awarded $2.3 million in damages to a four-year-old boy and his mother in a medical malpractice lawsuit filed over a negligently performed circumcision that severed approximately 30% to 40% of the head of the child’s penis.

The boy, who is now four years old, was born at South Fulton Medical Center in Atlanta, Georgia. His mother filed a negligence lawsuit against the hospital and both the obstetrician who botched the circumcision and a pediatrician who was called by a nurse about the injury, but failed to examine the child.

According to the complaint, the medical negligence of the obstetrician, Dr. Haiba Sonyika, during the routine circumcision caused a large portion of the head of the penis to be severed. Dr. Sonyika then failed to appreciate the severity of the injury, inform appropriate medical staff about the injury and failed to take steps to preserve the tissue.

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A nurse retrieved the tissue, placed it in a plastic biohazard bag and notified the child’s pediatrician, Dr. Cheryl J. Kendall, of the injury. However, the complaint alleged that Dr. Kendall failed to check on the baby for over an hour and a half and did not consult with a pediatric urologist, who could have reattached the severed portion.

As a result of the injury, the boy has been left with a permanent deformity that will require future surgery to address narrowing of his urinary opening. The family also argued at trial that he will require future counseling to help him deal with the consequences of the injury.

Following a two week trial, the jury deliberated for two days before returning a verdict that found Drs. Sonyika and Kendall negligent in causing the injury, but the hospital was not found to be negligent. The doctors were ordered to pay a total of $2.3 million in compensatory damages, including $1.8 million to the boy and $500,000 that will be paid to the boy’s mother to cover the cost of medial care and counseling.

Routine circumcision involves removing the foreskin at the tip of the penis. Although common in the United States, the number of boys who are circumcised has been declining. In 1999, the American Acadamy of Pediatrics (AAP) stopped recommending the procedure, and it is estimated that only about half of all boys born in the United States are undergoing circumcisions.

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