Would you believe a patient who said a nurse or physicians assistant told him to remove his own staples after he lacerated his leg? The patient removed his own staples.
In this interesting case, a 68-year-old man went to the ED with a chainsaw laceration of his left knee. He developed a severe infection in the knee, which required surgery, intravenous antibiotics and physical therapy. The plaintiff claimed that antibiotics should have been given at the time of the ED visit and that a partial cut to the quadriceps tendon was not diagnosed.
The defense asserted that there was no indication for prescribing antibiotics, and that if the plaintiff had an infection at the time of the ED visit, it would have been evident at that time, rather than when it was diagnosed a month later. The defendant claimed the wound was cleaned and examined before being closed.
The defendant claimed that the plaintiff was given a special staple remover to take to his primary care physician which was intended to minimize tissue damage during staple removal. The defendant also claimed the plaintiff was instructed to follow-up with his physician in 12-14 days for reevaluation and staple removal. The plaintiff removed his own staples after three days and never followed up with his primary care physician.
The plaintiff claimed that when he was handed the staple remover a nurse of physicians assistant told him he could remove the staples himself. A defense verdict was returned.
The contributory negligence when a patient removed his own staples
Comment: This case is a good example of a defense of contributory negligence. The actions of the plaintiff contributed to the injury. This defense may be particularly effective if the plaintiff acted in a reckless way and caused his injuries.
The jury has a tendency to harshly judge people who make poor decisions. The above case is a good illustration of a patient whose actions (removing his staples and not following up with his physician) may have contributed to his poor result.
I find it very hard to believe that an ED staff member would tell a patient to remove his own staples. Do you agree? Add a comment and share your opinion.
Case: William Warnick v. UPMC Passavant, Allegheny County (PA), Court of Common Appeals, Case No. GD-11-012960, reported in Laska, L. (Ed), Medical Malpractice Verdicts, Settlements and Experts, September 2013, page 10-11
Patricia Iyer MSN RN LNCC is president of The Pat Iyer Group, LLC.