When The Worst Occurs: Surgical Errors

Surgery, for many of us, is a stressful procedure that we hope we will only need a maximum of once in our lives. A specialized physician, or surgeon, will open us up while we are unconscious, and remove or fix a problem in our bodies.  It is inherently stress-inducing, invasive, and generally necessary when done. We place our lives in the hands of our surgeons, hoping and assuming they will do their best. And, most of the time, we can rely on them for doing exactly that.

Unfortunately, however, that does not mean there are not mistakes. And while a doctor’s mistake in misdiagnosing the common cold as the flu can be frustrating, it is nothing compared to the perils, pain, and suffering we experience with surgical errors.  Surgical errors can range from errors in the diagnostic process (such as determining a patient needs a surgery when they actually do not) to, in the worst cases, botched surgeries in which the surgeon irrevocably hurts the patient’s health and well-being.  If this all sounds familiar to you, you may be entitled to compensation in a medical malpractice lawsuit, as part of a surgical malpractice suit.

What Does Not Classify As a Surgical Error

Surgery, by nature, is messy. Professional surgeons will train for years, and take every available precaution, in order to control all the variables, but things will still happen out of their hands. Certain infections and organ responses to surgery will complicate the process, and even risk the patient’s life.

However, if the surgery is botched by factors out of the surgeon’s control, the physician is not liable for any of the damages. No, complications and bad outcomes do not necessarily constitute malpractice by the surgeon. Rather, it is a matter of standards of care.

When It Does Classify As a Surgical Error

Various different situations can be classified as ‘surgical errors,’ including but not limited to:

  • Failure to remove all surgical equipment from the body
  • Puncturing organs that are not involved in the surgery
  • Severe infection in the aftermath of the surgery
  • Fractured bones or burns of unknown origin
  • Anesthesiologist mistakes, such as over-administration/under-administration

Standards of care are the standards implemented in every state as the minimum requirement for medical personnel to adhere to. They ensure at least a base level of quality of care, consistent across hospitals and medical institutions, so that no patient is treated worse than another.  When these standards are not met, then malpractice is on the table.  For a malpractice claim to hold water, a few different components must be satisfied. The first is regarding standards of care, and whether or not the surgeon met them.

The Process for Remittance

If the surgical error is one of low care quality, then this is a matter of malpractice. The way this is determined is by looking to other, competent doctors, in a practice known as expert testimony.  Expert testimony, which is guided by ‘expert witnesses,’ sees a doctor of the same specialization (surgery) observing the evidence that was originally presented to the original surgeon. If this other doctor is also unable to avoid making the same mistake, then it is not a valid malpractice claim.

If, however, the surgical error is one that another doctor would not have made, then the first component of a malpractice has been met, as it has been revealed to the court that the surgeon failed to meet appropriate standards of care.  The second component of any valid claim comes in on the idea of ‘preventable injury’ and its consequences. Here, the plaintiff must showcase how the doctor’s failure to abide to the normal standards of care has injured the victim. This link must be solid and stand strong, as defense attorneys will attempt to discount it as uncorrelated.

The idea of this second component is that the plaintiff must be able to showcase how the surgical errors have caused injury to the victim, in a way that would otherwise have been preventable. This injury is not limited to the physical, but can also include emotional or financial struggles incurred as a result of the mistake.

The First Step to Take After Surgical Error Malpractice

If you or a loved one has been the victim of a major surgical error, it is imperative you reach out to experienced attorneys as soon as possible. These attorneys will pour over all of the available evidence, and reach a preliminary judgement on whether the patient has a valid claim or not.  If so, they will be able to act accordingly, fighting for the victim to receive as much compensation as they are entitled to, under state laws. However, this process begins with the patient reaching out to lawyers before the statute of limitations (two years under Michigan state law) expires.  Call The Clark Law Office today at +1 (517) 347-6900.

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