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Woman's Accent Changes After Surgery

All medical procedures have risks, but in 2009, Karen Butler from Salem, Oregon, awoke after dental surgery with a British accent. The 56 year-old tax consultant continues to have the foreign accent a year and a half after surgery.

Butler’s surgery consisted of having her top and front bottom teeth removed due to gingivitis. Although the dentist convinced her in inability to speak correctly was due to her new teeth and gum swelling, after several weeks the condition had not gone away.

Dr. Helmi Lutsep, professor and vice-chair of the Department of Neurology at Oregon Health & Science University claims the condition may have been caused by brain injury, although it is uncommon. "We don't know exactly how or why it happens, but it simply affects rhythm of language," Lutsep said. "I'm absolutely convinced this is a real phenomenon. These people are not making it up."

Butler has done her own research and determined she has Foreign Accent Syndrome. She also argues did not have any brain injuries or stroke. Further medical testing has not been done due to lack of medical insurance.

Butler has appeared on dozens of television shows, newspaper stories and radio programs throughout Australia and Europe and does not seem too upset about the change in her speech. In fact, in Toledo where Butler has lived since she was young she is somewhat of a celebrity due to her unique condition.

Many friends and acquaintances have noticed the change. Her co-workers simply presumed she was taking voice lessons. Butler claims she cannot hear the change when she speaks but she knows her mouth is forming words differently. Her daughter claims that the accent seems to be “softening”.

There has been a swirl of media attention, but Karen Butler claims she is the same person as before. Sometimes Butler says she likes to talk to her daughter whose voice is similar to the way hers was before surgery. "After all this time I like to hear it. I like to remember what it was. What my voice sounded like," Butler said. "I don't feel different inside at all. I'm the same old me.”

Filing a Medical Malpractice Claim


Karen Butler’s story is unique and her medical procedure did not leave her with any serious injuries, but many patients’ are seriously injured during surgery or another medical procedure due to a doctor’s mistake.

What if your doctor’s negligent actions caused you serious injury? Do you have the right to sue for compensation? Medical malpractice can occur if your doctor or healthcare provider breached their duty of care toward you and you have suffered a loss.

How do you win a medical malpractice claim? First you must prove your doctor owed you a duty of care. This is relatively easy to prove given the doctor/patient relationship. Next you must prove that your doctor did not meet their duty and provide you with the appropriate “standard of care”. For instance, did your doctor provide you with the same care that a reasonable healthcare provider in the same field would have provided to you in similar circumstances? If they did not, and you were injured, you may have the legal right to compensation.

Generally to prove standard of care you need another doctor or health care provider to testify as an expert witness. Finding a witness can be difficult because most doctors are not willing to offer damaging testimony in a medical case against another doctor.

Finally, you will need to prove that you suffered injury due to the doctor’s negligence. This sounds simple, but you will need to prove that your injury is not the result of your disease or another injury but is a direct result of the doctor’s lack of care. You must also prove the injury or loss would not have occurred if you had received proper medical treatment.

Given the complexity of medical malpractice cases, you will need the help from a personal injury lawyer who specializes in medical malpractice cases. Personal injury lawyers can review your medical malpractice claim, find an expert witness and estimate your damages from your medical malpractice injuries.