Even with years of schooling and training in hospital procedures, medical professionals can still make mistakes. Surgeons, hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers attempt to minimize the risks of surgery and other medical procedures through improved technology and other methods, but errors still happen.
When a surgeon or other medical professional injures a patient by making a preventable mistake, it’s called medical malpractice, or medical negligence. Depending on the nature of the error and your injury, you may be able to claim compensation for your medical bills, your pain and suffering, and other potential losses.
“Never events” and other serious surgical errors
There are certain medical errors that are so egregious, shocking, and preventable that they are known throughout the industry as “never events.” They are mistakes that never should occur in the field of medical treatment. Over time, the definition of never events has “expanded to signify adverse events that are unambiguous (clearly identifiable and measurable), serious (resulting in death or significant disability), and usually preventable.” Some examples of never events include:
Never event: Wrong site surgery
Operating on the wrong body part or incorrect site is an absolutely avoidable mistake that can result in dire consequences to a patient. At a minimum, wrong site surgery leads to prolonged healing time, added expense, additional scarring and, usually, the need to have the correct surgery at a later time. Most hospitals and surgery centers have the correct procedures in place to prevent these types of errors, which usually is as simple as having the patient mark the intended surgery site with a magic marker before the case. Nevertheless, incredibly, wrong site surgeries still occur. Almost every case of a wrong site surgery constitutes medical malpractice entitling the patient to compensation.
Never event: Retained objects
A shockingly common example of a never event is when a negligent surgeon leaves a foreign body in a patient after surgery. Common materials found in some patients’ bodies include sponges, towels and even scissors and scalpels. There is often a delay in detecting these retained foreign objects, during which the patient can experience pain, infection and the need to undergo an additional surgery to remove it. The fault for this type of never event can lie with the surgeon who leaves the instrument behind, or the hospital staff or nurse who is responsible for counting and keeping track of the surgical instruments used.
Why do surgical mistakes happen?
As with any medical malpractice case, a key factor in surgical malpractice cases is that the error would have been avoided if the surgeon exercised reasonable care. Most surgical errors are preventable and happen due to negligence, or the failure to act reasonably and carefully. Common causes of surgical mistakes include:
- Lack of planning
- Poor communication
- Failure to follow protocols
- Fatigue or sleep deprivation
- Alcohol or drugs
Most surgical errors can be avoided when health care providers are careful and take their time, and when hospitals have the proper procedures and regulations in place. When they fail in their obligations to provide appropriate care, they can be held liable for the harm they cause.
Not all mistakes lead to malpractice
It is important for patients to understand that not all mistakes in medicine will rise to the level of medical malpractice, and not all unwanted outcomes are the result of errors or negligence. Any credible expert doctor (or lawyer) will tell you that complications can occur under the best of circumstances despite appropriate care.
In order to successfully establish a claim for medical malpractice, your lawyer must prove that you were injured because your medical provider breached the standard of care required under the circumstances. In other words, your doctor failed to provide you with reasonable, careful and appropriate medical care and, as a result of that failure, you were injured.
The medical malpractice attorneys at Phelan Petty can help if you or a loved one suffered injuries and sustained damages because of a surgical error negligent medical treatment. We aggressively seek compensation on your behalf. Please contact Phelan Petty right away for a free consultation by calling 804-980-7100 or completing this brief form. We have offices in Richmond, Virginia.