The Youner Case
This is an informed consent case arising from Mrs. Youner’s surgery to relieve left scalp and facial pain of the occipital nerve.
Defendant doctor performed major spinal surgery in 2005 to sever the occipital nerve at its root in the spinal cord. Defendant doctor inadvertently injured the spinal accessory nerve causing permanent severe neck and shoulder pain with atrophy and substantial loss of use of the left neck, left shoulder and left arm. Defendant doctor failed to advise Linda Young that there were conservative non-surgical treatment options for the occipital nerve pain which did not involve the risk of spinal accessory nerve injury.
By relevant medical history, in 2003 Mrs. Youner underwent surgery to remove her right parotid gland (mid right neck). She suffered post-operative Trigeminal Neuralgia, nerve pain of the left jaw and face. In 2004, Defendant doctor and his partner successfully operated on the trigeminal nerve relieving the pain. Six months later, Mrs. Youner developed left nerve occipital pain. The parties agree that this occipital nerve pain was most likely a delayed complication from the 2004 trigeminal nerve surgery.
In 2005, Mrs. Youner first consulted Defendant doctor in regard to the presumably post-operative occipital nerve pain. Defendant doctor scheduled a nerve block for 2009 to anesthetize the injured occipital nerve root. The nerve block successfully anesthetized the occipital nerve and replaced her severe pain with tolerable scalp numbness. Mrs. Youner was then directed to return the next day for surgery to cut the occipital nerve at its root. Defendant doctor failed to advise her that a significant number of patients enjoyed long-term or permanent relief from the nerve block and avoided the high risk of nerve injury from spinal nerve surgery. As Mrs. Youner enjoyed immediate and complete relief from the 2005 nerve block, she would not have undergone the surgery if she had been told that the nerve block provided long term or permanent relief in a large percentage of patients.
As the direct result of the “battery” (Pennsylvania case law considers lack of informed consent to be a battery rather than a negligence tort) perpetrated by Defendant doctor, Mrs. Youner suffered immediate spinal accessory nerve injury with dropped shoulder, facial droop, pain and hypersensitivity on the left jaw, shoulder and upper back, substantial loss of use of her left arm and permanent disfigurement.
This case settled out of court.