Scartelli Olszewski, P.C. Wins in Pennsylvania Supreme Court Changing The Way Doctors Practice

Pennsylvania’s highest court decided in favor of Scartelli Olszewski client, Megan Shinal, ruling that a doctor has a personal duty to obtain a patient’s informed consent prior to surgery. A doctor cannot hand off to physician’s assistants or nurses the responsibility for explaining to patients the nature of the surgery it’s risks, benefits, and alternatives.

“This is an important victory not only for our client but for all patients contemplating or undergoing surgery in Pennsylvania” – Melissa Scartelli, Founding Partner of Scartelli Olszewski, P.C.

This ruling gives Megan Shinal a new trial because the Pa Supreme Court held that the trial judge committed an error of law when he allowed the jury to consider information provided to her by her surgeon’s staff in deciding whether her consent to surgery was “informed.”

According to court documents, Megan Shinal suffered catastrophic injuries during open surgery for a benign tumor in the pituitary region of her brain. Geisinger Medical Center’s Chief of Neurosurgery, Dr. Steven A. Toms, admitted his choice of surgery was aggressive. During the operation Dr. Toms cut her carotid artery, resulting in hemorrhage, stroke, brain injury, and partial blindness.

Court documents say Mrs. Shinal testified Dr. Toms spent limited time with her before surgery, and her questions were directed to the doctor’s staff. She also testified that Dr. Toms did not inform her of other surgical alternatives which carried less risk.

“The Court’s decision has nationwide implications for doctors and patients. While physicians assistants and other staff provide valuable health care services, they do not perform surgery and cannot substitute for the surgeon when having a life and death discussion about surgery” said Scartelli.

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