On his 18th day of life, the boy’s fate was set with the flick of a knife: staff at Riverdale’s Life Cycle Pediatrics botched his circumcision. The mistake set into motion a lifetime consequences for the boy, who turns 5 next month.
Attorneys for the boy’s mother and the defendants she’s suing agreed to as much Thursday in Clayton County State Court. What the jury must decide is how much he’s owed and who owes it. The plaintiff’s attorneys said the child, whose name is being withheld, is left to suffer mental anguish for years because his penis is deformed, with much of the tip gone. There’s also physical pain from chronic scabbing. The jury began deliberations late Thursday but broke for the day without reaching a decision. They will resume Friday morning.
Defense attorney Terrell W. Benton, who represents the nurse midwife and doctor who’ve been found liable, told the jury $1 million should cover the boy’s medical expenses as well as the the costs of long-term therapy and suffering.
But Neal Pope, representing the child’s mother, Stacie Willis, put a picture of Lebron James up on a projector screen, saying the basketball player made $99 million in three years, while pointing out that life expectancy estimates suggest the boy might live another 69 years.
“I think the case is a $100 million case,” said Pope.
Pope told the jury he’s struggled for decades to explain pain in words — physical and mental pain.
The best he’s come up with is: “Pain is a window into hell.”
The boy’s pain began in October 2013, when his mother brought him to the clinic so nurse midwife Melissa Jones could perform the circumcision.
With an accidental slip, she severed the tip of the child’s penis, Pope said. Dr. Brian Register, who like Jones has been found liable, called the clinic’s owner, Anne Sigouin to alert her. Jones called the boy’s pediatrician, Dr. Abigail Kamishlian of Daffodil Pediatric and Family Medical. Sigouin and Kamishlian both said they weren’t made aware of the full extent of the injury.
No one recommended emergency surgery. Jones and Register left the severed tissue in a refrigerator and sent the mother home with the bleeding boy, Pope said. Had any of the medical professionals sent the child to an emergency room with the severed tissue, Pope said it could’ve been reattached, which might’ve limited the problems.
Jones, Register, Sigouin’s Life Cycle Pediatrics and Life Cycle OB/GYN, Kamishlian and Daffodil Pediatric and Family Medical are all defendants in the suit. Jones and Register are the only ones who have already been found liable, but the plaintiff is asking the jury to make all of them pay.
Willis has said she had to insert an instrument into her son’s penis three times a day to prevent it from closing after the circumcision. He had surgeries in Minnesota and Massachusetts, which attorneys on both sides agreed have made it easier for him to urinate and, according to one of the doctors, open the possibility that he could have children one day, though tests must be done around puberty to see if he needs more surgery.
“He’s been through a lot since he was 18-days-old,” defense attorney Benton conceded.
But Benton disputed any notion the nurse midwife and doctor at the clinic didn’t take what happened seriously: “What evidence is there they didn’t care about (him)?”
In his closing argument, Pope didn’t try to paint the defendants as having ill intent against the boy. He focused on what he said the the boy has endured — and will endure — the rest of his life because of the defendants’ failures: the embarrassment once he gets older and tries to find a partner. The pool of potential significant others may be greatly diminished, Pope fears, because of the boy’s deformity.
It will take a special partner, he said, to accept it.