Surgical errors happen frequently in the United States, and they are one of the leading causes of malpractice claims and unnecessary deaths. When you go in for surgery, you assume that the surgeon, hospital, and their staff are there to keep you safe – and even help you feel better.
Sadly, that is not the case for everyone. Worse, most of these surgical errors are preventable with improved communication, better safety checks in place by professionals, and both sides being more proactive in the process.
If you are the victim of a surgical error, you have rights. Not only should you hold that party responsible for your injuries, but you can receive financial compensation for your pain, suffering, and monetary losses that result from the surgical error.
Exploring the Most Common Types of Surgical Errors in the United States
Having surgery is stressful enough without having to worry about surgical errors that may or may not occur. Whether you are having emergency surgery, or it has been scheduled for several weeks, you rely on the surgical team to fix whatever is wrong and ultimately make you better.
It is a common belief that surgical errors only happen during complex procedures, but even a simple procedure can result in an error. In fact, daily procedures like colonoscopies can lead to complications such as a perforated bowel. Amputations of a limb can result in the wrong limb being amputated.
Some of the more common surgical errors seen in the United States include:
Foreign Objects in the Patient’s Body
One of the more common errors is foreign objects that are left behind after surgery. These can include everything from surgical sponges to gauze to even clamps. When a surgeon does not look inside the cavity closely, and the surgical staff is not keeping count of all surgical sponges used and recovered, this can happen. Not only does this cause discomfort for the patient, but it can lead to a life-threatening infection or death if it is not corrected immediately.
Operation on the Wrong Site
As stated above, surgery on the wrong limb or side of the body can occur. When a physician is rushed, and the surgical team does not take steps to ensure the correct area of the body is prepped, surgery on the wrong side can occur. Whether it is the amputation of the wrong limb, or even removing or replacing the wrong kidney in a patient, these are costly and sometimes deadly errors.
Operation on the Wrong Patient
You would hope that, when you are rolled into the surgical suite, the physician and staff know who you are and what surgery you are receiving. However, when medical records are swapped, and the staff does not take the time to manually double-check, a patient could undergo a different surgery than they were supposed to. For example, one patient is in for spinal surgery, while another reconstructive surgery. The surgeon does not know the patients or take the time to know them, the staff hurries to get through the scheduled procedures, and the patient that was supposed to have reconstructive surgery now has a spinal correction procedure they didn’t need.
Permanent Nerve Damage
The human body is quite delicate, and almost anywhere you go there are nerves. The body has millions of nerves, each placed throughout the body for a separate purpose. All it takes is a minor flick of the wrist or tremor to accidentally damage one of these nerves. Depending on where that nerve is located, it can leave the patient with chronic pain, odd sensations, or even a long-term disability, such as the inability to move an arm.
Lastly comes anesthesia errors. Sadly, this is one of the most common surgical errors. Any patient undergoing surgery, even outpatient procedures, requires some type of anesthesia. This controls their ability to feel the surgery, know what is going on, and helps regulate everything from heart rate to blood pressure to oxygen.
When the wrong dose of a drug is administered, a patient may suffer from permanent brain damage due to oxygen deprivation. When too little is administered, a patient could wake up in the middle of surgery or be aware enough to feel what is happening but unable to tell doctors what is going on.
If an anesthesiologist does not get a full patient history ahead of time, they may administer a drug that causes a lethal interaction or something the patient is allergic to, both of which can be life-threatening.
What Are a Patient’s Rights after Surgical Errors?
If you or a loved one is the victim of a surgical error, you have rights. It is imperative that you speak with a malpractice attorney right away. Surgical errors are almost always preventable. However, you should not confuse surgical errors with bad outcomes. Not all negative outcomes from surgery involved actual errors.
Surgical errors occur when physicians or healthcare team members fail to perform their due diligence. They do not use the acceptable standard of care while operating, and as a result, it leads to an injury. Known as malpractice, if a medical professional is liable for malpractice, victims can receive compensation to help return them to a financially whole state, which includes:
- Medical Costs – All medical costs related to the treatment or recovery from the surgical error, including the botched procedure, can be reimbursed to the patient and their health insurance provider. Any future medical care required because of the error is also covered.
- Lost Wages – Lost wages during recovering, or any wages lost due to an inability to return to work, are covered in this type of compensating.
- Pain and Suffering – Surgical errors can result in physical pain, emotional trauma, and mental anguish – all of which a person has a right to receive compensation.
The first step toward exercising your rights, and holding surgeons accountable, is to call a malpractice attorney. Attorney Seth Gladstein from Gladstein Law Office, PLLC, can assist you with your case. Meet with us for a free, no-obligation case evaluation by calling our office today.