Errors related to surgical procedures can cause serious problems for patients. Learn about how to seek legal assistance and compensation for injured parties.
Patients deserve to remain safe throughout their medical care experience. Unfortunately, patients sometimes suffer harm at the hands of the medical staff members who are supposed to care for them.
Numerous types of surgical errors can occur, and many of them are preventable. Hospitals, medical facilities and surgical centers should have clear guidelines in place to prevent these types of issues. Consequences should be implemented if it’s found that medical professionals aren’t following protocols.
Before a surgical procedure, there are vital pieces of information that must be verified. These include:
- Patient’s name and identifying information
- Type of surgery
- Surgery location on the body
- The presence of informed consent
- Suitability of the patient to go under anesthesia
- Presence of any contraindications or risks
- Suitability of the patient to undergo the full procedure
- Ability of the medical care team to keep the patient safe
Many surgery protocol documents require that the team utilize a timeout procedure in which multiple parties verify the information. This gives everyone a chance to review all the information. If anyone disagrees with any points, the procedure typically isn’t done until everyone is in agreement.
In most cases, some information, such as the patient identity and the information about the surgical procedure, is verified more than once.
Another aspect of the pre-op care that can sometimes lead to surgical errors is the patient being informed of the risks of the procedure. Lack of informed consent to any surgical procedure, unless that procedure is a critical emergency, may be the basis of a medical malpractice claim.
Patients have to be given information about the risks of the surgical procedure as well, to determine whether they feel the benefits of it outweigh those risks. In some cases, their doctor or the surgeon will discuss this with them in a pre-op office visit. It’s still a good idea to double check informed consent the day of the procedure.
Problems in the Surgical Suite
There are some major issues that can occur in the surgical suite. Many of these are considered “never events” because no patients should ever be subjected to them.
- Wrong patient cases: The person who undergoes the operation isn’t the person who should be having it. For example, Miss Smith is taken for surgery but she was waiting on a sedated MRI. Mr. Jones was taken for the sedated MRI but should have gone into surgery.
- Wrong site/surgery cases: The surgery isn’t done on the proper body part or the wrong surgical procedure is completed. For example, a patient has a left hand amputation when they went in for a vein ablation of the right leg.
- Instruments and supplies left behind: The surgeon leaves something physically inside the patient’s body by accident. For example, a surgical sponge can be left in a patient’s abdomen during an appendectomy, and the patient is stitched up with the sponge left behind.
In all “never events,” hospital policies have been violated, usually due to negligence on the part of medical staff.
However, not all surgical errors are “never events.” Other surgical errors include things such as the misadministration of anesthesia or improper monitoring of the patient’s vital signs.
In order to prevent these surgical errors, everyone on the surgical team needs to ensure that they are properly doing their job. Medical professionals should not rush or skimp on safety because the patient is the one who ultimately pays the price for the errors.
One of the biggest risks in the days after a surgery is infection, including a hospital-acquired infection. Patients should always be monitored closely after they have had a surgical procedure. This includes observing the surgical site for redness, oozing, warmth and severe pain. Taking the patient’s temperature is also beneficial, since running a fever could be a sign of infection.
Seeking Compensation for Surgical Errors
Patients who suffer harm at the hands of their surgical team may have many questions about what they need to do next. It’s possible for them to seek compensation via a medical malpractice lawsuit if the issue at hand was negligence or recklessness.
Each state has a statute of limitations that provides a firm deadline for individuals who need to seek compensation. Some of these are as short as one year, so injured parties should try to discuss their options quickly after they realize there’s been a surgical error and a problem with potential medical malpractice.
Compensation helps to cover the costs associated with the injury. This includes medical care costs and lost wages. It can also encompass pain and suffering, emotional turmoil and similar damages. Putting together a comprehensive case can help with negotiations for a settlement or when going before the court to present your case.