For years, VA hospitals have been outscoring private facilities in terms of customer satisfaction, and outperforming their peers in quality of care. But one 61-year-old Army veteran claims his body has been butchered due to negligent treatment at a VA medical center: He says an ice pack left on his penis led to frostbite, which led to gangrene, which led to a partial amputation, which has led to a lawsuit against the federal government for $10 million.
Michael Nash says that in October 2010 he went to the VA Medical Center in Louisville, Ky., for a penile prosthesis-placement procedure and circumcision. According to experts interviewed by CNN, it is standard after such an operation for an ice pack to be applied to the groin for two to four hours, between layers of gauze. But according to the lawsuit, a nurse left an ice pack directly on Nash's penis for approximately 19 hours.
This led to severe frostbite, the lawsuit states, and a little over two weeks later Nash had a partial penectomy, in which a 5-inch section of his penis was removed. According to his attorney, Larry Jones, he no longer can have sex and will need reconstructive surgery to urinate normally.
"In addition to robbing someone of their manhood, they've robbed him of the simple ability to urinate just like every other person who lives in this world," Jones told The Associated Press.
"It's completely devastated this man emotionally," Jones told CNN. Nash is seeking up to $10 million in compensation, plus attorney's fees.
The care provided by VA facilities has improved dramatically over the years, but its recent history is still dotted with disturbing reports of negligence. In 2008, the VA Medical Center in Philadelphia suspended its brachytherapy program after it was found that dozens of veterans had received incorrect radiation doses over a 6-year period.
In 2009, it emerged that 11,000 veterans in three cities had received colonoscopies and endoscopies with equipment that may not have been properly sterilized, exposing the patients to deadly diseases. And surprise inspections that year at 42 of the country's 56 VA hospitals found that 43 percent failed to meet standards for cleanliness and safety.
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