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Woman vomits fecal matter for days before dying after hysterectomy; surgeon blamed for botched operation

Medical malpractice

(NaturalNews) Colleen Stefanyszyn, of the Newcastle suburb Merewether, Australia, vomited fecal matter for several days and eventually died, after a botched hysterectomy operation obstructed her bowel.

The 61-year-old mother of two underwent an elective vaginal hysterectomy surgery, performed by Dr. Oliver Brown at Newcastle Private Hospital, in December 2008. Mrs. Stefanyszyn died just four days later, after a loop of suture material that was left wrapped around her bowel caused a blockage.

NSW Supreme Court Justice Monika Schmidt ruled that Mrs. Stefanyszyn's death was the result of negligence by both her gynecologist and obstetrician Dr. Oliver Brown, and the hospital. She concluded that Mrs. Stefanyszyn's death could have been prevented if they had been more careful.

Stefanyszyn's death could have been prevented

The court heard that Dr. Brown's approach to Mrs. Stefanyszyn's subsequent care was baffling, given the severe nature of her symptoms and rapidly deteriorating condition, which included the vomiting of fecal matter for several days.

"Despite Mrs Stefanyszyn not recovering from the surgery as was expected and her deteriorating condition, the cause of her symptoms was not investigated, the blockage was not identified and surgical steps necessary to remove it were not taken, with her death the result," Justice Schmidt found.

"The result was that the blockage was not identified or addressed; infection set in; she repeatedly vomited faecal material; she inhaled some of that material with resulting pneumonia; her electrolytic balance became disordered; her oxygen levels deteriorated; and finally, she suffered a fatal cardiac arrest."

'He breached his duty of care'

A medical expert who reviewed the case said during an NSW Supreme Court hearing that the patient showed "unequivocal evidence of either a bowel obstruction or an ileus [intestinal obstruction]." He further noted that fecal vomiting was "the worst red flag that a surgeon would see."

Nonetheless, no further actions were taken by the doctor or the medical staff of the hospital. Justice Schmidt was highly critical of the neglect that lead to Mrs. Stefanyszyn's death.

The hospital's negligence "did not give rise to a mere possibility of injury, but actually materially contributed to the death which resulted from both its failures and those of Dr Brown," Justice Schmidt found.

The hospital decided not to call evidence to address the issues of its breaches, and admitted responsibility for only 5 percent of the negligence, while Dr. Brown took responsibility for two-thirds of the negligence.

Dr. Brown challenged the hospital's admission in a cross-claim, and the NSW Supreme Court ruled that the hospital's level of responsibility was 20 percent, rather than the submitted 5 percent.

Mrs. Stefanyszyn's husband, Walter, and two daughters Leigh and Megan, have settled their claim for compensation against the hospital and Dr. Brown.

However, no compensation can fill the emptiness Mrs. Stefanyszyn's death has left.

In a notice in the Newcastle Herald on the second anniversary of his wife's death, Mr. Stefanyszyn wrote: "I have lost my soul's companion, a life linked with my own. Day by day I miss you more, as I walk through life alone. Forever Wal."

Her daughters wrote: "What is home without a mother? All things this world may send, but when we lost our darling mother, we lost our dearest friend. Love Leigh and Megan."

Sources for this article include:




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