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Friday, July 27, 2007

“He put in the phony tusks while the woman was under anesthesia…”

posted by on July 27 at 13:10 PM

An oral surgeon who temporarily implanted fake boar tusks in his assistant’s mouth as a practical joke and got sued for it has gotten the state’s high court to back up his gag.

Dr. Robert Woo of Auburn had put in the phony tusks while the woman was under anesthesia for a different procedure. He took them out before she awoke, but he first shot photos that eventually made it around the office.

This story is so weird I can’t believe it: The assistant grew up on a farm with pot-bellied pigs, couldn’t stop talking about them, and obviously missed them. The surgeon is described as a “kindhearted, fun-loving man,” a joker, a nice old geezer.

Put the two together and disaster strikes:

The oral surgery on Alberts was intended to replace two of her teeth with implants, which Woo did. First, though, he installed temporary bridges that he had shaped to look like boar tusks, and while Alberts was still under anesthesia, he took photos, some with her eyes propped open. Before she woke up, he removed the “tusks” and put in the proper replacement teeth.

When the farm girl found out, she freaked, quit, and sued her boss. He tried to apologize. She wouldn’t hear it. Everyone’s feelings were hurt.

The two settled out of court but the surgeon’s insurance wouldn’t cover the costs so he turned around and sued them.

He lost. He appealed. Then he won.

In a sprightly 5-4 decision, Supreme Court Justice Mary Fairhurst wrote that Woo’s practical joke was an integral, if odd, part of the assistant’s dental surgery and “conceivably” should trigger the professional liability coverage of his policy.

Integral? How? The Seattle Times does not explain.

RSS icon Comments


By "integral" the court doesn't mean a necessary component of, they mean of or pretaining to. The mistake he made was an odd one, but it was still of or pretaining to his professional practice.

Posted by Sandy | July 27, 2007 1:25 PM

Spider pig, spider pig, does whatever a spider pig does...

Posted by monkey | July 27, 2007 1:25 PM

Read the majority Supreme Court decision here:

It boils down to the insurance company's refusal to provide a defense immediately and to determine if the doctor had coverage later. This is a great decision for anybody who buys insurance and expects that company to follow the terms of the policy language!

Posted by Me | July 27, 2007 1:42 PM

but are the pics part of the public record? that's the big question here.

Posted by Boylston | July 27, 2007 2:04 PM

Fine. Give him the money. then disbar him for abusing a patient under anesthesia.

Posted by Fnarf | July 27, 2007 2:45 PM

Oy. Insurance shouldn't cover this. Insurance isn't meant to cover intentional acts of malfeasance. The fact that he did this on purpose means that he should have no coverage. It's not malpractice, since it's not an error or due to medical ignorance, and it's not general liability since again, he intentionally did it. Since intentional acts are specifically and explicitly excluded, the insurance company shouldn't have been obligated to defend him.

Posted by Gitai | July 27, 2007 3:01 PM

I agree with fnarf. Why isn't this guy in jail?

Posted by genevieve | July 27, 2007 3:01 PM
Posted by Prospero | July 27, 2007 3:28 PM

Yet another thing to add to the list of reasons why I avoid anesthesia at all costs. Give me a good old fashioned nerve block any old day.

Posted by lilblackcat | July 27, 2007 4:56 PM

You take the tusks out, your ankles are by degrees safer in the local thicket.

Posted by Lloyd Clydesdale | July 27, 2007 8:25 PM

What is with dentists going koo-koo bananas on anesthetised patients? I think that spending so much time alone with non-responsive, vulnerable people fucks them up the same way going straight from elementary school to high school to university to teaching elementary or high school fucks up a lot of teachers.

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