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Former patient charges Duke with negligence

Julie Dunavant, a Virginia woman who underwent a procedure at the Medical Center in 1996 to reverse her tubal ligation, filed a medical malpractice suit Friday against the University, the Private Diagnostic Clinic and Dr. David Walmer, an associate clinical professor of reproductive endocrinology and infertility.

Dunavant claims that a three-inch-wide, 27.5-inch-long rubberized tape introduced into her abdomen during the procedure was left inside, and later prevented her from having children. "The retained foreign object proximately caused scarring and adhesions which have adversely affected the plaintiff's ability to bear children," the complaint reads.

After the surgery, Dunavant experienced "frequent abdominal pain, bloating and fecal urgency of mucoid stool." When Dunavant, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday, informed Duke doctors of these problems, she was told that such problems were normal post-surgical pain for major surgery, she complaint states.

Six months after the surgery, Dunavant had a colonoscopy that discovered a lesion and an inflammatory mass in her colon.

Three days later, before Dunavant was to undergo a second colonoscopy, doctors identified and removed the rubberized tape.

In April 1998, more than two years after the initial surgery, Dunavant became pregnant. However, she suffered a miscarriage shortly thereafter.

Among other accusations, the complaint claims that the University, the PDC and Walmer were negligent by leaving the tape in her abdomen, failing to properly monitor their staff and failing to investigate the cause of her post-operative pain.

The complaint also faults the University for allowing residents to perform surgical procedures and for failing to establish a system for ensuring that foreign objects are removed from patients after surgery.

The PDC is also liable for failing to properly supervise Walmer and the others involved in the procedure, the complaint maintains.

Dunavant's attorney, Hayes Hofler, and University legal officials were unavailable for comment Tuesday.

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