Scales of Justice

ELKO – A former Elko obstetrician/gynecologist is being sued for medical negligence stemming from a 2013 procedure that burned a hole in a patient’s bowel.

Opening arguments began Jan. 10 in the jury trial of Dr. Gary Wright, who specialized as an OB/GYN in Elko from 2005 to 2016. Elko District Judge Al Kacin is presiding.

The plaintiff, Jessica Van Hoy, is seeking unspecified damages, alleging Wright “negligently injured” her when the bipolar electrocautery tool he used in a laparoscopy to remove an adhesion burned her bowel and that he failed to convert the surgery to a full-open procedure to examine the area for damage.

The procedure took place April 3, 2013, at Northeastern Nevada Regional Hospital. Van Hoy’s attorney, Charles W. Spann, told the jury that because of her “complicated” medical history, Wright should have obtained a second opinion instead of sending her home. After the surgery, Wright told Van Hoy and her husband about the burn to the bowel and told them to contact him if there was pain.

Spann said Van Hoy experienced “severe” pain, nausea and sweating 15 minutes after leaving the hospital and returned to NNRH that afternoon. Van Hoy was operated on the next day, about 31 hours after her first surgery, to repair the hole, and was hospitalized for nine days.

Anthony Lauria, representing Wright, told the jury that burns or “thermal spread” can take place when using an electrocautery tool, or Kleppinger, and that injuries to bowels are common in laparoscopies. Lauria said Wright did not see any evidence of fluid leaking into the abdomen as a result of the burn to the serosa tissue of the small bowel before concluding the procedure. Lauria also stated that Wright knew most burns “heal on their own.”

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Lauria told the 10-member jury that the defense planned to call other physicians during the trial, explaining that in some of their depositions they stated Wright “met the standard of care” and was not negligent, adding that the “totality of evidence” presented in the trial would show that Wright was not negligent.

Wright is board certified in Nevada, Hawaii and Texas and he opened his own practice at the Pinion Road Medical Clinic in 2008, according to Free Press files. He was the department chair of the OB/GYN unit at NNRH from 2010 to 2013.

Wright moved to Texas in 2016 and is expected to testify in his own defense during the trial.

The trial is expected to continue through the rest of the week.

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Staff writer for the Elko Daily Free Press

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