THE FORUM, Fargo, North Dakota,
12 February 2003.

Attorneys debate, question nurses in circumcision trial

By Jeff Baird

The Forum - 02/12/2003

Attorneys sparred Tuesday over details in MeritCare Hospital's medical records, disagreeing on if they proved Anita Flatt received adequate information before her son's circumcision.

Five MeritCare nurses testified in Cass County District Court that while they don't remember Flatt's stay at the hospital in March 1997, records indicate it was uneventful and that the proper discussions on circumcision took place.

Flatt attorney Zenas Baer, however, pointed to several spots where the records didn't accurately reflect what happened between March 5, the day Flatt was admitted to the hospital, and March 8, the day she was discharged.

When East Central District Judge Cynthia Rothe-Seeger asked where he was going with his line of questioning, Baer said he was trying to prove to jurors they can't rely on records alone in determining what happened with the circumcision.

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 to parents regarding the procedure, 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 nurse Rita Frovarp told jurors she has watched Kantak explain the risks and benefits of circumcision to parents more than 200 times. She said Kantak's discussion is thorough, and she has even talked parents out of having their child circumcised.

Nursing records don't show any visits between Kantak and Flatt on March 6 and 7, Baer said. Dr. Kantak performed the circumcision about 10:45 a.m. March 7, Baer said. But nursing records don't document Kantak being at the hospital until 11 a.m., he said.

The records, Baer told the six women and four men on the jury, also don't show Flatt received an epidural at MeritCare, which she did.

In cross examination, MeritCare attorneys said newborn nursery records show Kantak was in the nursery March 6, the day Flatt's child was born.

Also, a note Kantak made in Flatt's son's medical record indicates she did discuss circumcision with Flatt.

The trial, which is in its seventh day, is expected to end this week.

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

(File prepared 12 February 2003)