The potential exists for errors in every type of surgery, no matter how minor. Surgical errors may cause complications that impede healing and sometimes even cause death. Surgical errors do not automatically signify that medical malpractice has occurred, but many surgical errors result in medical malpractice claims. The success of these claims depends on the details of the incidence and the patient’s ability to prove the malpractice. A skilled medical malpractice attorney may be invaluable when filing a claim for surgical errors.
Prevalence of Surgical Errors
A study in the Journal of Patient Safety says it is estimated that between 210,000 and 440,000 patients in the United States die from a preventable error every year, as of 2014. If this estimation is correct, medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the U.S. While not all of these incidents are surgical errors, some studies have indicated that roughly 50 percent of medical malpractice cases are filed regarding surgical errors in many of the largest counties in the United States. It is estimated that as many as 12 patients per day in the United States suffer from having a retained surgical device left inside the body when surgical sites are closed.
Surgical Error Examples
There are many different types of surgical errors that may result in medical malpractice claims, including:
- Nerve injuries
- Anesthesia errors
- Improper amputations
- Surgeries performed on incorrect patient
- Organ perforation or tearing
- Retained surgical instruments
Surgical Error Causes
Several factors may cause surgical errors resulting in medical malpractice claims. One of the most commonly cited reasons found when conducting interviews with surgeons is fatigue. Surgeons often work extended hours and each surgery may take several hours. Surgeons that are fatigued are much more likely to make mistakes and errors in judgment than well-rested surgeons.
Surgeons may lack the necessary skill or experience to perform a procedure. Errors are much more likely if a surgeon has never performed a specific surgery or has rarely performed the procedure. Surgeon incompetence may indicate a lack of training or insufficient hiring procedures by the hospital.
Many surgical errors are the result of surgeon negligence. Failure to properly sanitize equipment, failure to take a patient’s full medical history, and using equipment known to be defective may all be examples of negligence. Insufficient preoperative planning may also be considered negligence.
Communication errors can be very harmful to a patient in surgery. Communication errors between a referring physician and a surgeon can cause the wrong site to be operated on or other complications. Miscommunications between surgeons and staff may result in incorrect amounts of medication being given. Miscommunications between surgical staff may also result in needed surgical tools not being prepared in time.
Surgical Error Malpractice Claims
When filing a medical malpractice claim for a surgical error, patients must prove that a duty of care was breached. As with other types of malpractice claims, this will require that the patient provides documentation showing that a doctor/patient relationship existed. Patients must also show evidence of the surgical error and identify a connection between the error and resulting injuries.
Expert Testimony Florida
Expert testimony may be necessary in some cases to confirm what a similarly trained surgeon would have reasonably done in the situation. An expert may also be able to help validate the link between the surgical error and the resulting injury. A medical malpractice attorney may be able to help patients find a qualified expert to provide assistance and testimony.
Surgical Error Liability Florida
When surgical errors result in medical malpractice claims, there may be a number of different parties held liable. The operating surgeon is typically liable for errors. Staff that was operating under the surgeon may be liable, if the error was made separate from the operating surgeon’s instruction. The hospital or medical facility in which the surgical error occurred is typically held vicariously liable. Other doctors or staff members that might have contributed to the error may also be liable. An experienced medical malpractice attorney may help patients determine all parties responsible for surgical errors.
Allen, Marshall. “How Many Die from Medical Mistakes in U.S. Hospitals?” Scientific American. Pro Publica, 20 Sept. 2013. Web. 2 Nov. 2014. <http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-many-die-from-medical-mistakes-in-us-hospitals/>
Mulloy, Deborah, and Rhonda Hughes. “Wrong-Site Surgery: A Preventable Medical Error.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Web. 2 Nov. 2014. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK2678/>
“Statistics about Surgical Errors/Complications.” Right Diagnosis. Health Grades, 17 June 2014. Web. 2 Nov. 2014. <http://www.rightdiagnosis.com/s/surgical_errors_complications/stats.htm>