Yvette Johansen v. Vuocolo involved a patient, George Johansen, who died in 2002 a month after his lung was removed by a vascular surgeon, Phillip Vuocolo, due to suspected lung cancer, at the Heart and Family Health Institute, in Port St. Lucie, Florida. However, the subsequent pathology reports indicated that Mr. Johansen did not have lung cancer.
For the plaintiff, Probinksy & Associates' Brent Probinsky told the jury that Dr. Vuocolo had "no business" doing a lung removal, because Dr. Vuocolo was not board certified as a thoracic surgeon, and fewer than 10% of Dr. Vuocolo's surgeries were lung surgeries. In addition, according to Mr. Probinsky, Dr. Vuocolo should have done a biopsy and other tests to confirm the suspected cancer before performing a major and risky surgery. Mr. Probinksy also identified other alleged errors that resulted in complications, bleeding, and an additional surgery.
For the defense, Wicker Smith's Adam Rhys told the jury that Mr. Johansen was entitled to choose a lumpectomy, and that it was a reasonable choice. In addition, Dr. Vuocolo was an experienced surgeon who had done a thousand thoracic surgeries, with good outcomes. A CAT and a PET scan both confirmed the initial X-ray report, so there was a high likelihood of cancer. Finally, a biopsy would have been risky as well, and could reasonably have been refused. Everything that Dr. Vuocolo did, Mr. Rhys concluded, was within the standard of care, and Mr. Johansen was fully informed as to the risks.