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April 22, 2010 - Trial Starts in Testicle-Removal Lawsuit

When Kenneth "Ryan" Irby went to sleep at University Medical Center on May 8, 2007, he thought his surgeon was going to perform a biopsy on his right testicle and remove it only if it was cancerous.

When Irby, 23, woke up, he assumed the testicle was cancerous because it was gone.

He even shook the doctor's hand and thanked him for saving his life.

During a follow-up appointment a week later, an intern told him the news: The biopsy was negative -- he didn't have cancer.

Irby sued University Physicians Healthcare, and the trial is under way in Pima County Superior Court.

Irby spent much of Wednesday afternoon telling jurors about the events leading up to the surgery and how the loss of his testicle has affected him.

Irby told jurors he was involved in an alcohol-related rollover car accident on April 27, 2007. A couple of hours after he arrived at UMC, he began experiencing pain.

Physicians at the hospital ordered an ultrasound, but Irby said he opted not to wait for the results because he was tired and he figured the pain was accident-related.

A few hours later, Irby testified, he received a call from the hospital telling him that a mass had been found, it could be cancer, and he needed a biopsy.

During the May 4 follow-up appointment, Irby said, Dr. Jonathan Walker told him there was a mass on his left testicle and a calcium buildup on his right testicle. The doctor told him he wanted to do a biopsy, and the calcium could be scraped off at that time. Later, after doing a second ultrasound, the doctor corrected himself and said the mass was actually on the right testicle, Irby said.

On May 8, Irby said, he and Walker again discussed that Walker would be doing a biopsy, and the only reason he would remove the testicle would be if it was cancerous. Although hospital records indicate Walker told Irby that he was going to do an "excisional biopsy," or a biopsy after the testicle was removed, Irby insisted that wasn't the case.

Irby eventually learned the mass was a hematoma.

A tearful Irby told jurors that he isn't the same person anymore. He doesn't have much of a social life and he doesn't attend family functions.

He doesn't plan to tell his 7-year-old son what happened because he doesn't want him to look at him any differently, Irby said.

"I just don't feel like I'm much of a man anymore. I feel like I've lost my sexuality, like I've lost a part of myself," Irby said.

Irby's attorneys, Louis Hollingsworth and Michael Kelly, believe the doctors at UMC were negligent.

The attorneys for UPH, Kathleen Rogers and Tom Slutes, contend Irby knew there was a 5 percent chance the mass was benign. They also say he knew doctors couldn't perform a biopsy without removing the testicle for fear of spreading any cancer.

During cross-examination, Rogers brought out that Irby was told before he left the hospital that he might have cancer, but he chose to leave before seeing other doctors, and although Irby testified that he refused to allow a female doctor to examine him, hospital records indicate otherwise. Hospital records also indicate Irby told a nurse that he was in the hospital to have a testicle removed.

Judge Paul Tang is presiding over the trial.

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