Saturday, August 30, 2003

Doctor accused of unnecessary hysterectomies

Surgeon also faces 'branding' suit

By Murray Evans
The Associated Press

LEXINGTON - Women angered over hysterectomies they say were unnecessary filed lawsuits against Lexington surgeon James M. Guiler on Friday.

Guiler is also the target of a lawsuit filed earlier this year that claimed he branded "UK" - the initials of his alma mater, the University of Kentucky - into the uteri of women during hysterectomies. The lawsuits filed Friday are separate from the branding lawsuit, though one includes the couple who filed the branding complaint, Stephanie and David Means.

All three new lawsuits were filed in Fayette County Circuit Court and named Guiler; his employer, the Women's Care Center of Lexington, and Central Baptist Hospital of Lexington.

The first was filed by a Kentucky couple, Janet and Howard Hall, and the second by Gail Lewis. Both lawsuits also claim the women's' uteri were branded with the letters "UK" during operations.

Stephanie and David Means joined four other couples in the third suit.

"They were specifically told that the organs had to be removed," said Lexington attorney Sheila Hiestand, who said that pathology reports later indicated the operations were not necessary.

Donald K. Brown Jr. of Louisville, the attorney for Guiler and the Women's Care Center, said Friday afternoon he had not yet seen the lawsuits, but said they had no merit.

"We intend to aggressively defend every one of these claims because in virtually every instance, patients were referred by other doctors (to Guiler) with incapacitating pain, irregular periods, excessive bleeding and a suspicion of ovarian masses," Brown said. "They were all tried on conservative therapy without success, treatment options were discussed with each patient and the patient elected to proceed with the surgery."

The lawsuit included the Means' claims that the national average for hysterectomies performed per physician each year is 15, and that, by his own admission, Guiler performed 136 hysterectomies in 2002. Brown didn't dispute the latter number, but noted that Guiler was "a specialist in this area of medicine. Patients are referred to him."

Central Baptist Hospital spokeswoman Ruth Ann Childers said the hospital had no comment on the matter.

Plaintiffs in the three suits are seeking unspecified financial damages. Hiestand would not say whether the plaintiffs in the third lawsuit wanted Guiler to stop practicing medicine.

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