The 51-year-old, called 'Hank' by New Times to protect his identity, was serving time in a Florida prison on a DUI charge when he developed blisters on his penis in April of 2009. After seeing two other doctors also named in the suit, the executed complaint states, he was taken in June 2009 to urologist and penile implant specialist Dr. Paul Perito. His penis was stripped of damaged tissue, and the ensuing difficulties as Hank was bounced from hospital to hospital for post-surgical care read increasingly stomach-churning, even causing a prison guard to suffer a vomiting fit while surgical gauze was removed two weeks late from Hank's then-gangrenous penis. (Cross your legs, then read the gory details at Miami New Times).
Despite several additional procedures to correct the issues, there would be no bouncing back: an ensuing operation claimed Hank's penis entirely.
"What makes this case extraordinary," said Hank's attorney, Spencer Aronfeld, "is that a prisoner has so few options for health care -- he's basically at their mercy, and the quality of physician that the Department of Corrections attracts seems to be at the lower echelon of what's available. To me it's inhumane. I've done these cases for years, but other patients have the ability to pick up the phone and choose another doctor."
The suit isn't Dr. Perito's first brush with a courtroom, nor the first time he's been sued by Aronfeld over a penile amputation. (The previous case was settled before trial, according to court records, but not before Aronfeld says a tip to INS led to the former patient being deported.) Perito was arrested in 2004, accused of illegally selling prescription drugs, including large amounts of diluted cancer and AIDS medications, in a conspiracy that allegedly raked in $59 million. Despite a very strongly-worded order to suspend his practice, Perito paid a fine and kept his license.
"I've seen physicians do far worse things in Florida than this and get away with it, but it seems with this doctor there's a totality of circumstances that makes me question at what point the Department of Health says 'enough is enough'," Aronfeld said. "He seems to be the teflon M.D."
Hank's suit, which was filed November 3 against the Department of Corrections, Larkin Community Hospital, a corrections services company, and five other doctors who treated him, was not the only penile amputation scrap in 2011. In August, a Kentucky truck driver who went into surgery for routine circumcision and walked out without his penis lost a $16 million lawsuit against his doctor, who claimed he saved the man's life after finding cancer in his penis during the operation. Having a functional but damaged penis is apparently more sympathetic: in October 2006, a South Beach bartender got $1.5 million after the removal of penile warts allegedly left him with a painful, hardened scar.
Frighteningly for half of us, it's not just men with something to lose during surgery. A London doctor lost his license after a patient's vagina was "effectively amputated" during a cosmetic procedure.
Perito was not immediately available for comment, but has reportedly drafted a complaint accusing Aronfeld of "sensationalizing the personal tragedy of others to attract additional clients by means of making false and ill-informed public statements" -- a charge Aronfeld denies: "I don't even understand, quite frankly, the basis of this."
As for Hank, his attorney says he has been declared disabled and has been unemployed since his DUI arrest. "The loss of a penis has a devastating emotional effect," said Aronfeld. "(Patients) become almost demented."
Adding insult to severe injury, Aronfeld said in what he believes to be a retaliatory move, the Department of Corrections last week sued Hank for the cost of having housed him during his sentence.
Watch: a 2011 penis amputation case in Kentucky: