Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s 2013 informed consent bill states that a “physician need not provide a patient with information about alternate modes of treatment for conditions the physician already has ruled out,” which ultimately decreases a practicing doctor’s liability for neglect. This bill played a major role in the verdict of a recent medical malpractice case in Milwaukee, in which amputee Ascaris Mayo sued two healthcare professionals for not warning her of a potentially serious bacterial infection that resulted in the removal of four limbs.
In 2011, two years before the informed consent bill was instated, Ascaris Mayo, a 53-year-old mother, had four limbs amputated as a result of septic shock caused by an undetected Strep A infection. Mayo was originally under the care of physician Wyatt Jaffe, who never informed her that her symptoms of fever, elevated heartbeat, and abdominal pain, may have been a result of a life-threatening bacterial infection. Instead, Jaffe referred Wyatt to her gynecologist for “fibroid issues.” She collapsed later that day and was rushed to the Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It was there she underwent amputation surgery, as all four of her limbs were damaged beyond repair from the severe infection.
The jury found Wyatt Jaffe and his physician’s assistant, Donald Gibson, responsible for the noneconomic damages suffered by the amputee and her husband. The plaintiff argued that, had Mayo been given another possible diagnosis, she would have sought alternative treatment as her symptoms persisted. The verdict awarded Mayo $15 million for pain and suffering and her husband $1.5 million for the loss of her companionship after the surgery. The plaintiffs are predicted to appeal this case because Wisconsin law limits these types of noneconomic damages to $750,000.
The defense argues that, had the informed consent law been active when Ascaris Mayo contracted sepsis and underwent the amputation surgery, the jury would not have found Jaffe and Gibson liable for damages. According to an article published by Milwaukee’s Journal Sentinel, the defense insists they would have won the case with additional medical expert testimony proving the healthcare professionals being sued did not reasonably need to provide the patient with further information on the other potential causes of her presenting symptoms.