Through a typographical error, the amount of an Arlington jury's award in a medical malpractice suit against a Northern Virginia doctor was incorrectly reported in Friday's editions. The Award to a Reston couple was $180,948.06.
A 29-year-old Baltimore woman who was given a total hysterectomy she did not need has been awarded $1.5 million, the largest medical malpractice judgment in Maryland history.
Two hours into its deliberations on Tuesday evening, the Baltimore City Court jury sent a note to Judge Solomon Baylor asking if it could award Belinda C. Chambers more than the $1.2 million she had sought.
Chambers, a mother of two who told the jury she wanted more children but was prevented from doing so by the removal of her reproductive organs, said she had not given Dr. Manu Thimatariga permission to perform the operation.
Her Attorney, Marvin Ellin, said Chambers testified she awoke from the operation to find herself "half a woman" and later attempted suicide in her depression about the operation.
Besides its effect on her mental health and her ability to have children, Chambers now must take regular doses of a synthetic hormone to maintain her hormonal balance.
According to Ellin, medical studies show that these doses of estrogen - which were necessitated by the operation - increase Chambers' chances of developing breast cancer and blood clots.
According to Aaron Levine, one of the leading medical malpractice attorneys in the District of Columbia, the Chambers verdict is unusual in several respects.
For one thing, Levine said, there have been very few malpractice suits filed in the United States involving unnecessary hysterectomies - although many medical authorities and women's groups have contended that far too many such operations are performed.
The $1.5 million verdict is high by national standards, he said, particularly in a case that does not involve a child - who would need medical care for a lifetime - or a person who has been killed.
As an example, Levine pointed out that the mother of Rita McDowell, who died after Dr. Robert Sherman perormed an intentionally incomplete abortion on her, was awarded only $500,000 in a settlement reached in the middle of the trial.
Between 30 and 40 awards of a million dollars or more are granted each year in this country, he said.
Frederick Savage, attorney for Dr. Thimatariga, said he would ask the presiding judge to overturn the verdict. Failing that, he said, he would appeal.
If the judgment is not reduced on appeal, Chambers would receive $1 million. Her attorney would receive $500,000, a one-third share, which is standard in such cases.
The events leading to the record-setting award began on Dec. 16, 1975, when, according to testimony, Thimatariga attempted to perform an abortion on Chambers. When he later examined her, he failed to discover she was still pregnant.
Evidence introduced at the trial showed that Chambers had an ectopic pregnance - a pregnancy in which the fertilized egg implants itself in one of the fallopian tubes rather than in the wall of the uterus. The fetus had not been removed and by Jan. 4 she was in such extreme pain that she called Thimatariga at home and about 1 a.m.
Evidence showed that Thimatariga told Chambers to go to Lutheran Hospital in Baltimore. He said he arrived there at 7 a.m. Hospital records first place Thimatariga in the hospital at 9:15 a.m.
According to the evidence, Chambers' left fallopian tube had ruptured, and she spent the greater part of the night bleeding internally. During the time she was bleeding, and, according to Ellin, "in such damn pain she couldn't even breathe," Chamebrs signed a surgical consent form.
The form did not specify what kind of operation would be performed.
That form, and another consent form Chambers signed - which described an exploratory operation and any other necessary procedure - were the basis of the defense contention that Chambers had agreed to the hysterectomy.
After the operation, the pathologist's report showed that Chambers' right fallopian tube, right ovary and uterus were all normal, but temporarily inflamed by the internal bleeding.
During the trial the pathologist said he had erred in his original finding, and testified that all the organs needed removal.
Two Pennsylvania specialists, however, testified that their study of the records and an examination of specimens showed that some of the removed organs were normal, and the hysterectomy had been unnecessary.
In another malpractice case, a Reston couple was awarded $108,948.06 by an Arlington Circuit Court jury in a suit against a physician who failed to detect that their child might be born with a hereditary condition that is always fatal.
The award to Joseph B. and Trudy Burger was granted after it was shown that the laboratory to which Dr. Edmund P. Naccash had referred the couple had mixed up test samples. Joseph Burger was sent the result of another manbeing tested for the same condition.
The Burgers' child was born with Tay-Sachs disease, a deterioration of the nervous system.