Doctor Who Left Sponge in Patient Must Pay $6 Million

Posted October 26, 2012 in Jury Awards Medical Malpractice by


A doctor has been ordered to pay $6 million for leaving a 18-inch sponge inside a cancer patient on whom she was operating.

In 2005, Geraldine Nicholson, a 55-year old wife and mother of three, went under the knife to have cancerous tissue in her rectum and colon removed.

The surgeon, Dr. Arleen Thom, left a surgical sponge inside Nicholson’s abdomen before closing her up.

The 18-inch by 18-inch sponge caused infections and then prevented Nicholson from being able to get chemotherapy and radiation for her cancer.

Nicholson died less than a year after surgery because of the complications and from the untreated cancer.

Attorney J.W. Musselwhite

“As a result of the negligence of Dr. Thom, Nicholson received absolutely no treatment of the cancer that placed her in the doctor’s care in the first place,” said Nicholson’s attorney J.W. Musselwhite of Musselwhite, Musselwhite, Musselwhite & Branch.

He suggested the tragedy could have been prevented by a simple sponge count.

“Thom failed to examine the abdominal cavity for surgical sponges. She did not check with the nurse that an adequate sponge count had been completed,” Musselwhite said.

The jury ordered Thom to pay $5 million to Nicholson’s estate and $750,000 to her husband, Stephen.

Thom no longer practices medicine, but according to Musselwhite, she never took responsibility for the botched surgery and testified in court that the reason she stopped practicing was because she became disabled after Nicholson’s surgery.

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