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Man who recorded his doctor insulting him while sedated awarded $500,000

Ally Hirschlag is a producer/actor/writer who lives in Brooklyn, NY and buys way too many toys for her cats. She contributes to several publications, including Bustle, and The Nerve, and enjoys writing about all things woman. In her spar...

Patient won $500,000 for being repeatedly insulted by his doctor while he was under sedation

I've often wondered if doctors talk about people while they're under sedation during a procedure. Well, a Vienna man got proof that indeed they do, and you're not going to like what they had to say.

This man, who prefers to remain anonymous due to the nature of the lawsuit he filed against his doctors, was just going in for a routine colonoscopy. However, he left the recorder on his phone on, and it picked up a pretty shocking conversation that the anesthesiologist was having about him with the gastroenterologist and medical assistant.

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According to the audio recording, the anesthesiologist, 42-year-old Tiffany Ingham, was the instigator of a string of insults directed at him. In fact, she often talks directly to the sedated man and says some pretty vile things. Here are a couple of the biggest zingers.

"After five minutes of talking to you in pre-op, I wanted to punch you in the face and man you up a little bit."

In reference to a rash on the patient's arm, "Some syphilis on your arm or something. It's probably tuberculosis in the penis, so you'll be all right."

Both these comments were made by Dr. Ingham during the examination. She also called him a "retard" in association with his fear of having blood drawn, and said she'd change his chart so it said he had hemorrhoids even though he didn't. While all three medical practitioners were heard on the recording, only she was caught saying directly insulting things about the patient.

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The patient filed a lawsuit claiming defamation and medical malpractice, according to The Washington Post. I personally don't quite see how it's medical malpractice, since their actions didn't directly affect the patient's health, but that didn't seem to bother the jury, because they awarded him $500,000 in punitive damages. Of that amount, $50,000 was ruled to come directly from the anesthesiologist's Maryland practice. However, when the practice was contacted for comments, it was made known that Ingham no longer worked there. It was unclear whether or not she had been fired.

Neither the gastroenterologist nor the medical assistant were held responsible for their comments. However, the gastroenterologist may still face some disciplinary action from the Virginia Board of Medicine. In response to why punitive damages were awarded, one of the jurors, Farid Khairzada, had sort of an odd response. He told the Daily Mail, "We finally came to a conclusion that we have to give him something, just to make sure that this doesn’t happen again." It almost sounds like the jury decided to pay him hush money just because he had irrefutable evidence.

This terrifies me, because it shows how influential the medical community is in these matters and how even a supposedly unbiased jury has little to no respect for this patient. However, despite the odd jury comment, they did end up siding with him on the counts of defamation and medical malpractice even though in most states his active choice to record the conversation would be deemed illegal.

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Virginia is a “one-party consent” state, meaning only one person needed to be aware that the recording was being made. This phone was in the patient's pants, which happened to be placed underneath the operating table and thus recorded everything pretty clearly.

The doctors really should've realized that even if there was no recording device, patients who're put under for simple procedures like this often hear and remember things going on around them. I assume after this, medical practitioners will be much more careful about what they say in the operating room. You never know who (or what) is listening.

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