Do I Have a Claim? – Common Surgical Errors and Medical Negligence – Part II

May 18 2018 | Blog
  • Surgical errors are more common than many may think. Understanding their causes and consequences may help affected patients to decide to pursue a medical malpractice claim.

    This is the second of two articles on medical malpractice claims and common surgical errors. To read the first part, click here.

    As explained in last week’s blog, medical malpractice is a problem that affects hundreds of thousands of Americans each year. Surgical errors are among the most common reasons for filing a medical malpractice claim. A study published a few years ago reported that serious mistakes during surgeries happen at least 4,000 times a year nationwide. Such mistakes often include:

    • Unnecessary surgery – Due to a wrong diagnosis, a misinterpreted medical exam, or perhaps for other reasons, a patient may undergo a surgery that is not required or justified by their condition. Since most surgeries are invasive at least to some extent and may result in serious, often unpredictable consequences, unnecessary operations frequently lead to lasting negative consequences for the patient.
    • Wrong site/wrong procedure/wrong patient (WSPE) – Even though relatively rare (occurring once for every 112,000 procedures, according to some studies), surgeries intended to be performed on a different body part or even on a different person may have catastrophic consequences for the patient. Such errors are often caused by a communication breakdown between members of the medical staff responsible for the operation.
    • InfectionsSurgical site infections (SSIs) usually occur within 30 days after surgery, and the risk of developing one is estimated at between 1 and 3%. SSIs occur due to contaminated surgical instruments, contaminated caregivers, or airborne germs. If a patient’s immune system has already been compromised, an SSI may result in lasting compromised health or even death.
    • Surgical instruments left in the body – This is also called retained surgical bodies (RSB). It is estimated that 1,500 surgeries a year in the U.S. see this problem. Complications related to a foreign object left in the body may not manifest for months or even years after the surgery. Some hospitals have procedures in place to prevent such errors – for example, surgical staff is required to count the instruments before and after the surgery. Nevertheless, it is reported that “approximately 80% of cases diagnosed with RSB are those in which the number of declared materials was correct at the end of the operation”.

    How to Proceed If Medical Malpractice Is Suspected

    In cases of surgical errors like those mentioned above, a patient may have grounds for filing a medical malpractice claim. Yet, many of those affected by preventable surgical mistakes shy away from pursuing financial compensation for their injuries through available legal means. Some may have heard that medical malpractice claims are notoriously long and difficult to win. Others may worry that it will be harder or more expensive for them to get medical treatment if other doctors find out about the lawsuit.

    While such concerns may seem valid, legitimate medical malpractice claims have virtually no undesirable consequences for the patient. On the contrary, they may be a vital way of obtaining funds needed for recovery. For that reason, if you or a family member have suffered a bad medical outcome due to surgical error or medical negligence of another kind, you should not hesitate to contact a skilled medical malpractice attorney. He or she will thoroughly review the circumstances of your case in order to help you explore all of the legal options available. This may be the first step to recovery from your medical plight.

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