Medical malpractice lawsuits can be brought about by patients, or their loved ones, under special circumstances. It is important that you have expert evidence to prove that your injury or damage would not have happened but for the negligence on the part of the doctor or hospital.
Surgical errors, also termed “never events” because they are completely avoidable, happen at a whopping rate of 4,044 every year in the US, according to a 2012 Johns Hopkins malpractice study. It also says that a surgeon performs a wrong procedure on a patient 20 times a week. The report takes note of the fact that hospitals need to voluntarily report never events, and that many hospitals may not.
If you suspect that you or a loved one is a victim of a surgical error, then you have the right to sue for malpractice. But, it is of importance that first and foremost, you know what medical malpractice is and how surgical errors happen.
1) Surgical Procedures Are Risky
Surgical errors are not common, and the vast majority of surgeries performed in our country are uneventful. But at times, errors or mistakes happen during surgical procedures that cause injuries, long-term complications, or infections in patients. Very often, the surgical errors are discovered after a considerable period of time when the patient experiences difficulties or health problems.
All surgeries involve an element of risk in that the surgeon cannot fully guarantee the outcome of the procedure. Sometimes, unforeseen complications develop over which the surgeon does not have any control, and this cannot be counted as surgical error. It is also the duty of the surgeon to speak with the patient before surgery and help him or her understand about the potential risks. The surgeon explains to the patient the benefits of undergoing the procedure.
You are also required to sign a form known as ‘informed consent’ that states that you are aware of the risks involved in the procedure. This absolves the surgeon to a reasonable extent from being unfairly sued.
2) When Does Medical Malpractice Occur?
Medical malpractice occurs when the medical care provided to you falls below the standard of care expected from a doctor or surgeon of similar experience, training, and expertise, when performing under similar circumstances. If the error during surgery did not fall below the medical standard of care in your community, or if you were not seriously harmed by the error, there is no medical malpractice.
Surgical errors are fairly easy to prove. An X-ray is all that is required to prove that a sponge or surgical instrument was left behind inside the body of the patient. But what is more pertinent is that to prove medical malpractice, you must also prove that the error caused you considerable damage or injury.
As in all medical malpractice cases, it is important that you are able to prove that the surgical error has caused you injury or harm. Without direct cause-result relationship between surgical error and your injury, a medical malpractice case holds no water.
3) Common Causes of Errors During Surgery
However surprising and unexpected they may appear, surgical errors are not uncommon. Most doctors and surgeons are highly skilled and carry out procedures with utmost care, leaving no scope for mistakes.
But, sometimes mistakes or errors happen. Almost all errors that happen in operation rooms are avoidable and take place due to human inefficiency. They are called “never events” because they should never have happened.
If you have been injured due to an error by your surgeon, it will help to know the common reasons why errors occur. Also, consult a Connecticut Medical Malpractice Law Firm to know more.
Surgery requires a high level of skill and expertise, which usually come with experience. But sometimes surgeons are required to perform procedures which are not their forte, increasing the chances of mistakes.
As mentioned earlier, it is not the surgeon alone who performs a surgical procedure. He or she is supported by a medical team comprised of nurses, assistants, anesthesiologist and other specialists. If there is no coordination or there is miscommunication between the team members, surgical errors will occur.
Flawed Work Flow
Surgeons sometimes miscalculate requirements of surgery and decide to forego certain steps or opt for simpler or shorter alternatives. These decisions go against the desired outcome and cause an adverse reaction in the patient.
It goes without saying that experienced surgeons are much sought after and are overworked most of the time. It is not surprising that many surgeons complain of exhaustion and fatigue. But another consequence of this is that tired surgeons are much more vulnerable to making errors, resulting in medical malpractice lawsuits.
Stress, work overload, erratic hours, and high-pressure work environments drive many surgeons to resort to substance abuse. Alcoholism and drug abuse are prevalent in the surgeon community. Though this may sound surprising, the nature of work is such that depression, substance abuse, and alcoholism are problems that many surgeons are forced to deal with on a daily basis. Unfortunately, a surgeon who’s under the influence of alcohol or drugs is also prone to making mistakes. If you suspect that this is what happened in your case, you do have the right to sue for medical malpractice.
4) How Can Errors Be Prevented?
Hospitals and clinics have in place protocols and rules to avoid mistakes like leaving behind medical equipment inside patients. This includes counting the number of sponges, towels, and other surgical items before and after surgery, and timeouts in operating rooms before surgery to enable the entire medical team to co-ordinate perfectly.
Indelible ink is used to mark the site of surgery, well before the patient is given anesthesia. Anesthesiologists visit patients beforehand and check medical history to be sure about the identity and requirements of patients.
The steps being taken to avoid surgical errors have to be continually evaluated and improved to ensure 100 percent successful results.
Medical malpractice lawsuits seek to give justice to people who received medical care that fell below the standard of care administered in the community. It is important that you consult a trusted attorney and make sure that your case is genuine, and that you stand a good chance at trial. Understand your case well and rest assured: With an expert lawyer by your side, it will be possible to win a fair outcome.