THE FORUM, Fargo, North Dakota, Saturday,
8 February 2003.

Attorney cross-examines Flatt

By Jeff Baird

The Forum - 02/08/2003

After spending the greater part of four days listening, MeritCare attorneys took to the offensive Friday in the circumcision lawsuit against the hospital.

Jane Voglewede asked Anita Flatt if she remembered signing the consent form to have her child circumcised March 6, 1997.

"Yes," Flatt replied.

She asked Flatt whether she was "mentally clear" when she read it.

She was.

Voglewede then asked if she remembered reading the following line:

"My doctor, dentist, or podiatrist has explained the nature and purpose of the surgery or procedure(s), other methods or treatment, risk involved and the possibility of complications; I understand these risks and options available to me. I understand there is no guarantee as to the results that may be obtained."

Flatt said she had.

Flatt of Hawley, Minn., is suing Dr. Sunita Kantak and Fargo-based MeritCare Hospital claiming she and her husband, James, weren't told complete and accurate information about removing the foreskin from their son's penis.

She has told the jury she did not receive any information prior to her son's birth about the risks and benefits of circumcision.

She says she never received the booklet MeritCare gives out to parents, and only talked to Kantak briefly about the pain involved before the procedure was performed.

Had Flatt understood the risks involved in the procedure, she wouldn't have had it done, she said.

MeritCare nurses and doctors haven't had the chance to testify on whether they recall giving the information to Flatt.

Voglewede also asked Flatt about her conversation with Kantak on March 7, the day of the circumcision.

She asked Flatt if Kantak had "pushed" her to have the procedure done.

She hadn't, Flatt said.

Flatt asked Kantak about the pain involved during the procedure and was told an anesthetic would be applied. The conversation ended shortly after.

"At the time you felt all the questions you had were answered?" Voglewede asked.

"Yes," Flatt responded.

Voglewede asked Flatt if there is any expert testimony to indicate something is wrong with her son's penis.

Flatt explained that her son has been diagnosed with an "asymmetrical circumcision," which essentially means one side of the penis head has more skin than the other.

Flatt was concerned whether the diagnosis would cause complications with his sexual function, fertility and urination.

But medical experts have stated that is not a concern, the jury was told Friday.

Experts also said there is a good chance the asymmetry would be unnoticeable by the time Flatt's son hits puberty.

During attorney Zenas Baer's examination of Flatt, he asked his client to describe what she thought circumcision was at the time of her son's birth.

"You just cut around," she said. "I knew the term meant cut around."

Flatt, an attorney at Baer's law firm, said she was told by the nurse, "it was a really quick procedure."

She told Baer she tried to ask the nurse questions about the procedure on March 6, but was told she would have to wait to ask the doctor in the morning.

Jurors saw more than an hour worth of Flatt's home video tape of the birth.

It showed the commotion of people visiting the baby much of March 6 and March 7.

"What I think is the key to that video is that she has documented actual visual footage of the proceeding of what went on March 6," Baer said following the trial's adjournment for the day. "None of that included a visit with Doctor Kantak."

Jurors also Friday were read the written deposition of James Flatt, who died since the lawsuit was filed.

He said he was horrified the first time he saw his son's penis after the circumcision and described it as a bloody stump.

When asked what he would have liked to have been told before the procedure, he said "that he could die from it."

Flatt is asking for an unspecified amount in damages.

MeritCare officials left the courtroom without comment.

The trial is expected to end next week. East Central District Judge Cynthia Rothe-Seeger is presiding over the case.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Jeff Baird at (701) 241-5535

(File revised 15 February 2003)