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Surgical Surprises You Don’t Want

Surgery is serious business.  Every surgery carries an element of risk for some complications, but there are complications that are the result of negligence.  You trust your surgeon to do the best job he or she can do.  When surgery results in injuries due to medical malpractice, you can feel like that trust has been violated and you have to deal with new health problems, maybe more serious than the issues you originally sought to treat. If you find yourself in this situation, we can help.

A surgeon commits medical malpractice when his/her conduct falls below the accepted standard of care, compared to reasonably competent surgeons practicing the same area of surgery under similar circumstances, the patient is harmed as a result and suffers damages.

All medical errors, including surgical and anesthesia errors, affect 44,000 to 98,000 patients each year, according to a 1999 Institute of Medicine study. Patients having surgery in the U.S. experience mistakes that should never have happened about 80 times a week, based on a review of medical liability settlements and judgments from 1990 to 2010 collected in the National Practitioner Data Bank. The December 2012 issue of Surgery published the findings.

Surgical errors may include:

  • Wrong-site surgery,
  • Incorrect incisions,
  • Leaving equipment inside a patient,
  • Operating on the wrong patient,
  • Damaging nerves, blood vessels and organs,
  • Causing infections, and
  • Anesthesia errors.

Surgeons and the surgical team should follow protocols before, during and after surgery to reduce the risks of a mistake. Despite these steps, surgical negligence still occurs and can be a result of:

  • Insufficient planning: The surgical team should have the patient’s medical history, including reactions to medications, and evaluate the risks of surgery on the patient,
  • Poor communication:
  • The surgical team needs to be fully and accurately informed of what’s going on,
  • The patient’s identity and surgical site must be confirmed,
  • The surgeon needs to be aware of the relevant issues impacting the surgery, and
  • Surgical equipment must be accounted for after a procedure.
  • Fatigue or under the influence:  Surgeons or staff suffering from fatigue or under the influence of drugs or alcohol may make poor decisions which can lead to surgical errors. An estimated 15% of surgeons have alcohol abuse or dependency problems (compared to 9% of the general population) and these surgeons were 45% more likely to admit a major medical error in the previous three months, according to a study published in 2012,
  • Neglect: Using defective or unsterilized equipment can lead to infections, septic shock, and other life threatening conditions, and
  • Incompetence: Not everyone is cut out to be a surgeon.  Though a physician may be knowledgeable and skilled, that doesn’t mean being a surgeon is the right job for him or her.

Contact Our Office

If you or a loved one is the victim of surgical negligence, come to our office for a free initial consultation. To schedule a meeting to discuss your potential medical malpractice claim, contact us online or call our office at (302) 777-1000. Our office is open Monday through Friday, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., but we will meet with you evenings or weekends upon request. We will travel to your home or the hospital if necessary.