TN Supreme Court returns medical consent case to trial court
By WRCB Staff
CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -
The Tennessee Supreme Court has granted a new trial for an East Tennessee man who claims that his doctor failed to provide him with adequate information before operating on his back.
The case stems from a 2006 procedure that orthopedic surgeon Dr. David A. Beeks performed on Ike J. White III.
Beeks, who practiced in Cleveland at the time, recommended White undergo spinal fusion surgery.
The Tennessee Supreme Court ruling says that Beeks warned White of some of the risks involved, but did not explain that he would be using a bone-grafting product known as InFuse.
Beeks is said to have failed to properly explain the risks associated with that product, such as abnormal bone growth.
White's back pain subsided for a time after the surgery, but eventually returned. Tests later revealed abnormal bone growth on White's spine.
White later sued Dr. Beeks in Bradley County Circuit Court, alleging that Beeks failed to adequately explain the spinal fusion procedure.
That case went to trial, and was appealed and ultimately landed on the docket of the state Supreme Court.
In an opinion authored by Chief Justice Sharon Lee, the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals. The Court noted that a doctor has a duty to inform a patient of all significant risks associated with a procedure and that information regarding those risks, regardless of whether the risks became actual complications, would be highly relevant to the question of whether a reasonable person in a patient's situation would have chosen to undergo the procedure.
The trial court precluded that White's expert witness was prevented from testifying about the risks associated with InFuse, the jury did not have the opportunity to hear relevant, admissible evidence supporting White's informed consent claim.
The Supreme Court held that this limitation on White's expert affected the outcome of the case and ordered a new trial for White on the issue of informed consent.