$2.4 Million for Woman Killed by Perforated Bowel

Posted April 3, 2012 in Medical Malpractice by

Points to measure during a Pelvic Organ Prolapse Quanitative exam, or POP-Q

A jury awarded a South Carolina widower $2.4 million after his wife died in 2007 following a botched gynecological procedure at a local hospital.

  • Doctor ignored hemoglobin drop following surgery
  • Diagnosis and treatment of subsequent symptoms delayed for a week
  • Exploratory surgery discovered perforated colon


Downplayed and Ignored

Rita Blair put her trust in an OB-GYN facility in Easley, South Carolina, to treat a serious and sensitive medical procedure– a prolapsed vagina. Unfortunately, during the procedure to repair her reproductive organs her colon was perforated and, tragically, doctors ignored and downplayed her symptoms until sepsis set in and it was too late to save her. Blair, 50, passed away three weeks after her initial surgery.

Signs that something had gone wrong were presenting themselves almost immediately after the October 2007 procedure. Blair’s hemoglobin dropped precipitously following the surgery, from 15.6 to 7.4, which can indicate internal bleeding, but was not addressed by doctors. The day after she was discharged, Blair called the hospital to complain of nausea, vomiting and trouble using the toilet, but was simply prescribed anti-nausea medicine over the phone. The symptoms got worse and she showed up to the emergency room the following day, but still wasn’t taken seriously. “They just gave her an enema and sent her home,” says Jennifer Burnett, one of the attorneys for plaintiff Michael Blair, along with Anthony L. Harbin, both from South Carolina firm Standeffer and Harbin.

Still struggling, Rita Blair returned to the ER the next day, October 27, and this time was admitted to the hospital early in the evening. “She had nausea, vomiting, inability to have a bowel movement, abdominal pain, and a significant rise in white blood count,” Burnett says. “The lab findings were consistent with sepsis.” The doctor apparently did not consider her case urgent, because he didn’t bother to come see her until the following afternoon. A CT scan showed a large amount of blood density in her peritoneum that should also have been a red flag for bleeding, but the doctor didn’t check the scan results until yet another day had passed.


Never the Same Since

Ultimately, a general surgeon was called in to perform an exploratory laparotomy, which discovered the perforated colon and related infections, but by then it was too late. “As late as the 29th, she might have been able to be saved,” Burnett says. As it was, follow-up procedures were too little, too late and Blair finally passed away after suffering from two strokes brought on by complications from her doctor-inflicted injury.

Jennifer Burnett

Lawyers for the hospital argued that the diagnoses and treatment of the perforated colon were timely. However, the evidence and the timeline spoke for themselves. A jury last month found the doctor and OB/GYN facility negligent but not grossly negligent, which would have carried additional condemnation for reckless disregard for patient rights. Attorneys believe that the $2.4 million is the largest award in Pickens County, South Carolina history.

Blair leaves behind several grown children and her husband of three years, Michael, who slept on the floor of her hospital room during his wife’s final weeks. “They were really in love,” Burnett says. “Her husband was truly devastated by this. He has not been the same ever since.”

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