It only takes one simple mistake from a medical professional for serious harm to come to a patient undergoing surgery. In their hurry to get patients through the surgery process as quickly as possible, many hospitals have sacrificed safety for speed. Unfortunately, this type of negligence and careless treatment creates the potential for more surgical errors to occur.
When surgical mistakes are made, the victim may be eligible to file a claim stating that the surgeon failed to meet the required standard of care. Proving the surgeon’s negligence may not be an easy task. For this reason, it is important for victims of surgical errors to discuss the specifics of their cases with a qualified, experienced surgical error attorney.
What is a Surgical Error
When physicians, nurses or other medical professionals make preventable mistakes during surgery, this constitutes surgical error. Johns Hopkins School of Medicine researchers found that medical errors are third on the list of causes of death in the U.S. The invasive nature of surgery makes mistakes extremely critical, as they can easily lead to serious injury or death. If the surgeon’s negligence caused the injuries, victims or their surviving families may be able to claim compensation for damages by filing a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Common Surgical Errors
There are countless types of surgical procedures in which errors can occur. However, below are five fairly common surgical mistakes:
Surgery on the Wrong Site – When surgery is done on the wrong area, organ, or body part. Many patients have even suffered an amputation of the wrong limb.
Wrong Patient or Unnecessary Surgery – This is when the wrong patient receives an operation, and not only goes through unneeded surgery but also suffers complications accompanying such surgery. This often causes lasting health issues.
Infection – Improperly sanitized surgical instruments can produce cross-contamination. When a victim’s immune system is already compromised, serious infections and sepsis can result, often deadly.
Surgical Item Left in Body – Unbelievably, the rate of surgical instruments being left in a patient’s body after surgery takes place is quite high. Infections and other serious complications can follow. Tools such as scissors, clamps, and even sponges have been found in patients post-surgery. Some hospitals have resorted to counting all surgical appliances, even gauze, before and after surgery is performed.
Internal Organ Damage – Nearby organs can be punctured or perforated with scissors or scalpel, and a laser can penetrate the wrong area. Internal organ tissue is especially delicate, so a wrong, invasive treatment can cause severe damage.
Nerve Damage – Surgeons can make an error or anesthesia administration can go wrong, causing nerve damage to the patient.
What Causes Surgical Errors?
Standard protocol is generally followed by physicians and staff before, during, and after surgical procedures. However, even with the best of intentions, mistakes and errors still happen. Some of the factors leading to such problems include:
- Poor Preoperative Planning – Medical staff has a responsibility to acquire each patient’s complete medical history including any known medicine allergies. With this knowledge, medical personnel must evaluate all potential risks of any surgical procedure proposed for a patient.
- Miscommunication – Nursing staff may fail to properly identify a patient or mark the wrong surgical site. A surgeon may not be informed of an important issue affecting the surgery. Drug dosage may be misread or adverse drug reaction info may be overlooked.
- Neglect – Using surgical equipment that is not properly sterilized or defective medical devices can cause infection, septic shock, or other life-threatening conditions. In some cases, pieces of surgical supplies or equipment have been left inside patients’ bodies following surgery.
- Impaired or Fatigued Staff – The long hours worked by medical staff can easily create situations where extreme fatigue leads to dangerous behavior. Judgment can be impaired during surgical procedures, thus leading to potentially deadly actions.
- Incompetence – Even though surgeons go through years of training, some of them are sadly not competent to carry out certain procedures or operations. Additionally, some have not stayed current on new medical developments.
Filing a Surgical Error Claim
If a physician or other medical professional committed a surgical error that injured you, it will be necessary to show that the medical professional failed to meet the required general standard of care. This standard of care is simply an assessment of the proper type of and level of care that would be administered in similar circumstances by any ordinary health care professional with the same amount of training and the same skill level. If a victim’s attorney can show that the surgeon did not meet this standard of care, and this failure caused harm and injury to the victim, the foundation for a medical malpractice claim is valid.
Surgical mistakes can create a chain reaction in one’s health. These errors can trigger massive medical expenses by causing the victim to undergo numerous corrective surgeries and follow-up procedures. Additionally, the patient loses any semblance of financial stability due to the extensive amount of money lost due to time missed from work. Lastly, in very many cases, victims are never able to fully regain the degree of health they had before the surgical malpractice stripped it from them.
Sadly, in some cases, a victim dies from injuries sustained during a surgical error. Sometimes, surviving loved ones are left without financial support or the love of a spouse. These are instances where survivors may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Contact Our Surgical Malpractice Attorneys
The legal professionals at The Eichholz Law Firm are no strangers to surgical malpractice lawsuits. Our team of attorneys has successfully investigated and litigated cases where we have shown the negligence, incompetence, and failure of medical professionals to provide the standard of care due to all patients who entrust themselves into the hands of physicians and surgeons.
If you or a family member has suffered an injury due to a surgical error, reach out to us. We will help you recover compensation and find justice for the harm that has been done to you.