Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jan 10, 2020

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A child who was left with permanent brain injuries after a supposedly routine operation went very wrong settled her medical malpractice lawsuit with her surgeon for a record $17.3 million, most of which will be used for the girl’s future medical care expenses.

Iowa medical malpractice & six year old Shelbey

What should have been a routine operation changed a six year old Iowa girl’s life – and her family’s – forever. According to news reports, then six year old Shelbey Bomkamp was admitted to St. Mary’s Hospital in Dane County, Iowa in 2007 to have her spleen removed due to a hereditary condition. Her pediatric surgeon, Dr. Leonard Go of the Dean Health System, performed the operation, but did so in a manner inconsistent with medical standards.

Instead of making one large incision in the girl’s abdomen, Go made several small holes and used a morcellator (which is the equivalent of a blender used for medical purposes) to chop up the spleen inside the child’s body. However, the morcellator punctured the bag used to collect the spleen’s parts, cut major blood vessels and severed part of her bowel. The result was that Shelbey suffered serious blood loss and permanent brain damage. Now eight years old, Shelbey is confined to a wheelchair, fed through a feeding tube, unable to speak and only communicates by blinking her eyes. The damage done cannot be reversed and she will require around-the-clock care for the rest of her life.

Record $17.3M settlement

The family sued the surgeon and settled the case for a record $17.3 million – the largest reported medical malpractice settlement in Dane County – although the majority of that will go towards Shelbey’s life long medical needs. The family’s Iowa medical malpractice attorney was able to show that the surgeon had never used this method of removing a spleen in the past and that he never told the family that he was going to “try” it on Shelbey – something that no family should have to find about after the fact.

Medical malpractice attorneys generally use a variety of experts and a team of medical specialists to show not only what went wrong concerning a medical procedure, but also to show what other medical professionals would have done under similar circumstances. Don’t entrust your case to an attorney whose practice does not focus in this area of the law. Always ask how many medical malpractice cases the attorney has tried or settled, and never be shy to ask about the results they’ve achieved. The stakes are simply too high.