The pain that Joseph M. Shimko experienced at the end of his tailbone had become unbearable. On June 17, 2013, his mother brought him to be evaluated at the Geisinger-Kistler Clinic located in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Shimko, then 17, and his mother believed that he was suffering from hemorrhoids, and the attending physician, Dr. Christian Basque, concurred with their assessment. But according to a medical malpractice lawsuit filed on behalf of Shimko, Basque never performed a rectal examination and prescribed a suppository without properly diagnosing his condition. After a week-long trial, the Luzerne County jury convened and deliberated for less than two hours before awarding Shimko $10 million in damages.
The attorneys representing Basque and the Geisinger-Kistler Clinic claimed that Shimko refused the rectal examination. But Shimko and his mother both denied that allegation, saying that they told Basque they would follow his treatment recommendations and that he never proposed the exam as an option. Eight months later, Shimko’s mother called the clinic because her son’s pain had not subsided. Basque’s supervisor recommended that Shimko see a rectal surgeon, but according to the lawsuit the referral was never ordered and the family was never informed.
Shimko continued to treat his ailment as though it were hemorrhoids, but the pain continued to increase. On August 31, 2014, he was rushed to the urgent care department at Geisinger South Wilkes-Barre. After seeing Shimko, Dr. Nancy M. Gihooley quickly realized that he had been misdiagnosed. She determined that the pain was coming from a pilonidal cyst, which is an abnormal growth on the tailbone. Gihooley drained the abscess, relieving some of the pain, and told Shimko that he needed surgery.
The cyst, which had continued to grow due to the misdiagnosis, was removed, but it had become infected. Shimko then underwent several operations to address the issue. But according to the lawsuit, Shimko has been permanently disfigured and will have to manage severe pain every time he has to use the bathroom for the rest of his life. In the medical malpractice lawsuit, Shimko’s attorneys argued that if not for the misdiagnosis the cyst could have been removed before growing and becoming infected. Several medical witnesses testified on behalf of the plaintiff.
“We had a great jury who listened very closely to the evidence,” said one of Shimko’s lawyers. “There was quite a bit of expert medical testimony in the case, and all that testimony supported our client. Mr. Shimko’s very grateful for the verdict.”
The Pennsylvania jury was not limited by any monetary caps that exist in some states and based the $10 million award on the clinic’s negligence and Shimko’s pain and suffering, which require him to constantly medicate. In addition, a portion of the damages cover his humiliation, embarrassment, and permanent disfigurement. The clinic is reportedly in the process of appealing the verdict.