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Doctors sued for malpractice over patients' burn claims

Two separate lawsuits filed against physicians affiliated with local hospital

By Alex Bridges -- abridges@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- Two people claim doctors affiliated with Winchester Medical Center in 2007 caused them to suffer severe burns during surgery.

Teri Pamela Barnhart, of Hedgesville, W.Va., filed a medical malpractice suit in Winchester Circuit Court on Tuesday against the Winchester Breast Center PC, Dr. Anita Minghini and Winchester Medical Center. The suit identifies Minghini as acting as an agent and/or an employee of the other named defendants.

Meanwhile, James Wesley Thomas, of Martinsburg, W.Va., filed his malpractice suit in the same court against General Surgery Specialists PLC, Dr. Thomas E. Marfing Jr., and Surgi-Center of Winchester Inc. General Surgery Specialists at the time operated in Winchester. Surgi-Center is part of Winchester Medical Center.

Barnhart came under the care of the defendants on Nov. 6, 2007, for surgical services at Winchester Medical Center. According to her suit, Minghini, acting as agent or employee of WBC and WMC, "deviated from the applicable standard of care for providing surgical services."

Barnhart claims the defendants were negligent in their care and treatment of her for various reasons.

"During the surgical procedure, the defendants permitted flammable fluids and/or alcohol to be applied to Ms. Barnhart's body, in particular to her chest and breasts, and caused or permitted the flammable fluids to be ignited causing and resulting in severe burns to Ms. Barnhart's private body parts, including her chest in the area of the anterior medial right chest," the suit states.

Barnhart's suit also claims she received second-degree burns to her chest due to the ignition of the liquid used when the defendants prepared her for electrocautery, and the defendants failed "to provide Ms. Barnhart with full information regarding the known risks, alternatives and complications of her planned surgical procedure necessary to obtain Ms. Barnhart's informed consent before proceeding."

She also claims negligence by the defendants for "failing to follow proper medical, surgical and public safety procedures by lighting her afire in deviation from the standards of care and the requirements of common sense and public safety."

Thomas came under the care of the defendants named in his suit on Dec. 18, 2007, for surgical services at the Surgi-Center. His lawsuit also claims the defendants "deviated from the applicable standard of care" and were negligent for several reasons.

"During preparation for surgery and at the surgical procedure, the defendants permitted flammable fluids or alcohol to be applied to Mr. Thomas' body, in particular to his private body parts, including his thighs, buttocks, rectum and penis, and caused or permitted the flammable fluids or alcohol to be ignited causing severe burns to Mr. Thomas' private body parts," the suit states.

Thomas, like Barnhart, claims the defendants failed to give him full information. In Thomas' case, he claims to have had to seek help from a urologist to treat ongoing urological problems. Thomas also claims to suffered as an injury an "inability to perform adequately and without pain in a sexual relationship."

Neither suit explains the nature of the surgeries the plaintiffs underwent.

Barnhart and Thomas are seeking judgments of $2 million plus interest, costs, and punitive damages. Both have demanded trials by a jury.

Barnhart's suit was served on Business Filings Inc., of Glen Allen, for the Winchester Breast Center, and on Alfred E. Pilong Jr., senior vice president and president of Winchester Medical Center. Thomas' suit was to be served on Michael Halseth, who recently retired as president and chief executive officer of Valley Health, the parent firm of Winchester Medical Center.

None of the defendants had responded to the individual suits.

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