Nine Women Want To Join Lawsuit Against Surgeon Over Branding

Published: Feb. 20, 2003 at 3:11 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 26, 2003 at 11:57 AM EST
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(LEXINGTON, Ky., February 20th, 2003, 10 a.m.) -- Nine women have asked to join a lawsuit against a Lexington surgeon who branded "UK" -- the initials of his medical school alma mater, the University of Kentucky -- into their uteri during hysterectomies.

The lawsuit was filed Jan. 22 against Dr. James M. Guiler by Stephanie and David Means of Richmond, who claim Guiler branded "UK" on Stephanie Means' uterus during a hysterectomy in August.

The nine women who petitioned Fayette County Circuit Court on Wednesday asking to join the lawsuit include one of the surgeon's former nurses.

Like Means, each of the other women discovered that Guiler also had branded her uterus by watching a videotape Guiler provided of the procedure.

Means watched her tape after she experienced hemorrhaging after her surgery.

The lawsuit, which asks for a jury trial, doesn't specify a dollar amount that the women are seeking, but they are seeking punitive damages.

Guiler's attorney, Don Brown of Louisville, said his client denies that the procedure was inappropriate.

"We strongly deny any wrongdoing," he said.

The women said they believe the uterine markings are unnecessary. Other physicians, however, have had mixed reactions to Guiler's practice.

"Some surgeons chose to place a mark on the uterus to keep their orientation during surgery," said Dr. Andrew Brill, a gynecologist/laparascopist and a professor at the University of Illinois in Chicago where he is director of gynecologic endoscopy.

As for marking "UK" Brill said: "It's much more than one would surmise to be necessary to maintain orientation during a surgical procedure."

The women seeking to join Means' lawsuit are: Connie Grimes, 32, of Owingsville; Vickie Anderson, 38, of Harlan; Donna Johnson, 41, of Versailles; Addie McDaniel, 46, of Booneville; Gail Lewis, 42, Dana Kelly, 41, and Janet Hall, 38, all of Lexington; Vickie Ferrell, no age available, of Danville; and Vanessa Mayes, no age available, a former Kentucky resident now living in Florida.

"I didn't realize that he was doing this to everybody," said Kelly, a former nurse in Guiler's office.

Kelly continued to work for Guiler for more than three years after her surgery, she said. She underwent surgery Dec. 8, 1998, and said she watched her video as soon as she got home. She said seeing the branding embarrassed her to the point that she did not have the nerve to confront Guiler about it.

Grimes said seeing the mark upset her as well.

Dr. Bill Saye, a Marietta, Ga., surgeon who taught Guiler to perform the laparascopic assisted vaginal hysterectomies, the procedure each of the nine women underwent, defends the practice of marking the organ.

"Markings have been around forever to keep us out of trouble and it's for navigational purposes," Saye said.

However, Dr. Thomas G. Stovall, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Tennessee at Memphis, said he is unaware of any reason why a surgeon would need to brand the uterus.

"I'm not aware of any pathologists who require the marking of the uterus prior to removal," Stovall said. "It's certainly not something that is practiced in Tennessee or North Carolina. It's not a technique that we teach. However, medical practice varies in different locales. And uterine marking may be a technique that's utilized in Lexington that's not utilized in other parts of the country."

According to the state's medical licensure board no complaints have been filed against Guiler in the last 10 years.

The women suing Guiler said they felt anger, hurt and disbelief that the medical professional they trusted would mark up the organ that carried their children.

"As professionals we all have standards we have to go by," Anderson said. "He crossed the line.

"It's chauvinistic, arrogant and shows a total disrespect for women," she added.

Lewis said she wants to see Guiler stop branding women without their consent.

"This needs to stop," Lewis said. "I was disappointed. I didn't think he would do anything like this. I had the man on a pedestal."

Grimes said "I feel like the trust and the (doctor/patient) relationship that I had with him was violated," Grimes said.

"It hurt me," she said.

"He just betrayed my trust," Johnson said. Ferrell, Hall and Mayes could not be immediately reached for comment.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)