Plaintiff claims surgeon caused lingering distress

March 22, 1995|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Sun Staff Writer

A woman testified yesterday that the conduct of a surgeon caused her to develop multiple personalities and other problems, including flashbacks and nightmares relating to sexual abuse as a child.

Linda Burt, 47, of Westminster is suing Drs. Donald D. Coker and John E. Steers on several counts, including malpractice, not obtaining her informed consent for treatment, and battery by Dr. Coker.

The case is being heard before Carroll Circuit Judge Francis M. Arnold.

Much of the suit focuses on Dr. Coker's conduct, but she claims that Dr. Steers should not have left her in Dr. Coker's care, and that Dr. Steers didn't respond adequately when she told him about her problems with Dr. Coker.

Under cross-examination by Susan Boyce, the lawyer representing the doctors, Ms. Burt acknowledged a history of visits to psychologists and psychiatrists, as well as a malpractice suit she filed against a gynecologist in an unrelated matter. Ms. Boyce read aloud the diagnosis of a psychiatrist who saw Ms. Burt before her mastectomy, and who evaluated her as having multiple-personality disorder. But Ms. Burt said she didn't know of that diagnosis until after the mastectomy, and that the psychiatrist who gave it had seen her for only 20 minutes.

Earlier, as she was questioned by her lawyer, Judith S. Stainbrook, Ms. Burt said she was sexually abused by her father and raped by one of her brothers.

Ms. Burt testified yesterday that she had gone to Dr. Steers in 1989 about a lump in her breast, which he determined to be cancer after a biopsy. Dr. Steers performed a mastectomy in May of that year, Ms. Burt said.

Ms. Burt said she developed an infection near her wound and antibiotic treatment was only partially successful.

She said Dr. Coker treated her post-surgical infection in a way that caused her "excruciating pain" and emotional trauma.

Ms. Burt is seeking $1 million in compensatory damages and $1.5 million in punitive damages.

She was awarded $125,000 by the Maryland Health Claims Arbitration Board, but the doctors appealed.

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