Couple says physician breached standard of care

By Kyla Asbury | Jan 16, 2013

HUNTINGTON – A Cabell County woman and her husband are suing a physician they claim was negligent during a surgical operation and caused her severe injuries.

On Feb. 14, 2011, Dr. Steven Scott Brumfield performed a diagnostic laparoscopy at St. Mary’s Medical Center on Cynthia K. Mills, according to a complaint filed Jan. 4 in Cabell Circuit Court.

Mills claims Brumfield’s operative report notes that she tolerated the procedure well and suffered no complications. The report did not note any signs of a thermal injury.

On Feb. 17, 2011, Mills returned to the emergency room at St. Mary’s because of severe pain in her abdomen, bloody bowel movements, bloody vomiting and a temperature of 104 degrees, according to the suit.

Mills claims she was diagnosed with peritonitis and underwent exploratory surgery.

The surgeon found a “very obvious perforation within the anterior rectum about the size of a dime in diameter,” according to the suit.

Mills claims the perforation allowed fecal material to enter into and contaminate her peritoneal cavity and because of the injury, a portion of her colon containing the perforation was removed and the remaining part was extended out through her abdomen as an end colostomy.

The surgeon’s operative report did not note any signs of a thermal injury, according to the suit, and further examination of the removed portion of Mills’ colon by a pathologist revealed that the perforation was a full-thickness defect, but the report did not indicate any signs of a thermal injury being present in or around the perforation.

Mills claims she was hospitalized for 16 days and was told by Brumfield that the perforation she suffered during the Feb. 14, 2011, surgery was a thermal injury.

Since her discharge on March 4, 2011, Mills has continued to suffer from the effects of the perforation, according to the suit, and because of the colostomy, Mills has had to wear, care and empty a colostomy bag for several months, which significantly limited her ability to engage and participate in life as she did prior to the surgery.

Mills claims on June 15, 2011, she underwent surgery to have her colostomy reversed and has since had multiple additional problems, including constipation, abdominal pain, distention, nausea and vomiting.

In September 2011, Mills was re-hospitalized at St. Mary’s and diagnosed with a bowel obstruction, but was transferred to Cleveland Clinic by ambulance because of the seriousness of her condition, according to the suit.

Mills claims the multiple surgical procedures she had to endure caused adhesions on her fallopian tubes, which have more than likely rendered her infertile or will at least cause her to have extreme difficulty in getting pregnant.

Brumfield was negligent in his care of Mills and breached the standard of care by allowing her to suffer injuries, according to the suit.

Mills and her husband, Richard H. Mills, are seeking compensatory damages. They are being represented by Richard E. Holtzapfel.

The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge David M. Pancake.

Cabell Circuit Court case number: 13-C-12

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