Case Study

Surgical scar or Hate crime?

When the multiple abdominal surgery scars add up to unwanted KKK

Hospital Workers Cleared of Alleged Hate Crime
Native American claims the letters were carved into his abdomen during hospitalization for open heart procedure.

Published: April 8, 2015

A federal jury ruled last week that healthcare workers at Rapid City (S.D.) Regional Hospital did not intentionally carve "KKK" into the abdomen of a Native American who sued the hospital after undergoing open heart surgery in August 2011.

Vernon Traversie's lawsuit accused the hospital of violating his civil rights, battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress. A source with knowledge of the case says a friend of Mr. Traversie, who is blind, informed him that the markings on his abdomen were racially charged. Other acquaintances were not able to identify the letters in the markings, according to the source.

Rapid City Regional maintained all along that tape burns on Mr. Traversie's skin caused the markings and any resemblance to the notorious letters was purely coincidental. The medical records make note of the adverse skin reaction on Mr. Traversie, who is a brittle diabetic, according to the source.

The South Dakota Office of the Attorney General investigated the incident in August 2012 and concluded the marks were the result of the medical grade tape used to secure chest tubes that remained in place after surgery, and the evidence did not support allegations of criminal mistreatment.

In a written statement, Rapid Regional says, "We have a long history of helping patients and communities live well. We are proud of this history and continue to do our best every day as we serve our communities."

Anthony Broadman, Mr. Traversie's attorney, provided a statement prepared by his client: "I thank the jurors and the court for giving me my day in court. For me this is a victory in itself. I shared my story about what happened to me while I was a patient at the Rapid City Regional Hospital for one reason: to make sure that no other American Indian is treated in an uncaring way.

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