Protecting victims of medical malpractice and operating room mistakes
If you believe you or loved one suffered an injury and damages due to a surgical error, the Richmond medical malpractice attorneys at Phelan Petty can help. We have decades of experience handling complex medical negligence cases and delivering justice for our clients. We will thoroughly investigate your case and consult with leading medical answers – finding the answers you are searching for.
Contact us today for knowledgeable and compassionate legal representation.
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Why do surgical errors happen?
Surgical errors occur for a variety of reasons. While not every unintended result or bad outcome constitutes malpractice, many do. Surgical malpractice occurs when an error results from negligence or carelessness – i.e., the failure of the surgeon to exercise reasonable care. Some of the common causes of surgical errors include:
- Improper preoperative planning. Before surgery, your medical team is responsible for collecting your medical history, including your allergies and reactions to medications. Your doctors should also evaluate the risks associated with the surgery to be performed, as well as disclose those risks to you as the patient.
- Miscommunication. Lack of precise and thorough communication between medical professionals can lead to catastrophic failures in the operating room. From the failure to accurately count and report surgical equipment or materials used during an operation to incorrectly dosing medication to documenting the wrong vital signs, substandard communication leads to countless preventable problems. The breakdown of communication at any level can increase the risk of an injury.
- Incompetence. All medical professionals undergo years of education and training. That does not necessarily mean that every surgeon applies that training correctly or is even competent to perform every surgical procedure. Put simply, not every doctor, nurse, or assistant is right for the operating room – and the wrong personnel can jeopardize patient safety. Additionally, if a medical professional fails to stay current on developments in their field, they can put their patients at risk for injury.
- Fatigue or impairment. Doctors, surgeons and other medical staff work grueling and long hours, which can lead to fatigue. In some cases, this can also lead to risky behaviors like drug or alcohol use. Both of these affect their decision-making abilities and skills in the operating room.
- Negligence. Medical staff may be negligent when sterilizing (or failing to sterilize) surgical instruments, which can cause infection or septic shock. Or, if the surgical instruments are defective and cause injuries, the company who manufactured the instruments may also be found liable.
The surgical error attorneys at Phelan Petty can determine whether your surgeon deviated from the recognized standard of care during your procedure, and then work to secure you the compensation you deserve for your injuries.
What are Serious Reportable Events (AKA, “never events”)?
The National Quality Forum (NQF), a non-profit organization dedicated to improving healthcare, developed criteria regarding Serious Reportable Events (SRE), formerly called “never events.” The list includes the most serious medical errors that professionals make. In order for an event to be considered a “never” event, it must be characterized as:
- Unambiguous—clearly identifiable and measurable, and thus feasible to include in a reporting system;
- Usually preventable—recognizing that some events are not always avoidable, given the complexity of health care;
- Serious—resulting in death or loss of a body part, disability, or more than transient loss of a body function; and
- Any of the following:
- Adverse and/or,
- Indicative of a problem in a health care facility’s safety systems and/or,
- Important for public credibility or public accountability.
NQF lists five specific SREs in the category of Surgical or Invasive Procedure Events:
- Surgery or other invasive procedure performed on the wrong site
- Surgery or other invasive procedure performed on the wrong patient
- Wrong surgical or other invasive procedure performed on a patient
- Unintended retention of a foreign object in a patient after surgery or other invasive procedure
Intraoperative or immediately postoperative/postprocedure death in an ASA Class 1 patient
How common are SREs?
While most of these occurrences are rare, the most common “never event” appears to be unintended retention of foreign objects. Of the 237 surgical/invasive procedure events reported to the Joint Commission in 2019:
- 124 involved leaving a foreign object in a body
- 52 involved in the wrong site
- 13 involved the wrong procedure
- 9 involved an incorrect implant
- 9 involved the wrong patient
“Fear of punishment makes healthcare professionals reluctant to report errors. While they fear for patients’ safety, they also dread disciplinary action, including the fear of losing their jobs if they report an incident.” [Medical Error Prevention]
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- Radiology errors
- Medication errors
- Anesthesia errors
- Emergency room errors
- Failure to diagnose
- Misdiagnosis of bowel obstructions
- VA hospital negligence
- Wrongful death of a fetus
- Maternity malpractice
- Communication errors
Holding your Richmond surgical team accountable
In Virginia, you have two years from the date of the injury that resulted from the claimed malpractice to file a suit for medical malpractice. This is referred to as the statute of limitations. After this, a case is likely to be dismissed as untimely. You should contact an attorney as soon as you suspect your injuries were due to poor medical care, because important evidence supporting your claim can be lost or destroyed over time. The earlier our lawyers can start building your case, the better chance you have for a successful outcome.