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October 4, 1999
No Evidence Against Dr Cheema In Circumcision Suit
A P Kamath in Dade City, Florida
A couple, which won nearly one million dollars in a case against urologist Dr Jordan Baum this week, failed to have another doctor punished.
A six-woman jury deliberated for four hours about the botched operation, and ended what one lawyer involved in the proceedings called a "very serious case about an individual's manhood being taken from him". The case was argued for four days.
About 16 months ago, Rafael and Tammie Arias sued Jordan Baum for malpractice in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court two years after they say he bungled a circumcision he performed on Rafael Arias, 34.
Baum's actions, the plaintiffs contended, left Rafael Arias psychologically tormented and irreparably damaged, including a nearly total loss of sensation in his penis.
Also named as defendants in the action were a second Zephyrhills urologist, Pavitar Cheema, and the Florida Medical Clinic, Baum's employer. The couple had sought to argue through their lawyer that Cheema's follow-up procedure made matters worse.
But Judge Maynard F Swanson Jr determined there was insufficient evidence to show Cheema was culpable. He was dismissed as a defendant in the trial.
According to court documents, Rafael Arias' family doctor referred him to Baum for consultation on a vasectomy and Baum suggested a circumcision also be done and performed both procedures.
Arias suffered sustained pain -- unnatural tightness, fever, discoloration -- after the operation. Two weeks later, Arias' sutures ripped open and, bleeding, he was rushed to the emergency room, where a doctor referred him to the urologist on call, who happened to be Baum.
Baum was gruff and worked hastily, applying a local anaesthetic and stitching the wound. Arias complained of pain several times and requested more anaesthetic, which Baum denied, saying injecting more would hurt as much as the stitching.
As his symptoms persisted, Arias sought relief from Cheema. When Cheema's procedure didn't help, Arias turned to Bruce Mast, a plastic surgeon at Shands Hospital in Gainesville, who did a skin graft. That operation helped to some degree, but Arias could not get back most of his sensitivity.
Thursday, Arias' lawyer, W Riley Allen, argued that the Ariases simply wanted justice. Baum, he maintained, never told Arias of the risks, including the possible removal of too much tissue, one of the key allegations against Baum. Experts testified that wouldn't have happened had the circumcision been performed properly, Allen said.
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