When you check into the hospital for a surgical procedure, you expect that your doctor knows what they are doing and that everything will turn out just fine. But in the real world accidents happen, and it is estimated that one out of every 112,000 surgical procedures in the United States results in some kind of error. Whether it is leaving a surgical instrument inside of a patient or removing the wrong organ, patients who experience surgical errors are left with a lot of questions.
Your Procedure Venue Can Lead To Surgical Errors
The statistical instance of surgical errors means that every hospital in the United States that performs surgeries can expect an error to occur once every five to 10 years. That definitely increases the likelihood that your outcome will be as planned, but that is only in a hospital.
According to the Patient Safety Network, there are 2,700 surgical errors every year and the majority of them are outpatient procedures. This means that you are much more likely to experience an issue with a surgical procedure performed in a doctor’s office or in an outpatient facility than you are in a hospital. One reason for this discrepancy is that hospitals often have dedicated surgical staff who follow procedures that have been in place for years, while outpatient facilities rotate staff and that leaves room for errors.
The Difference Between An Error And A Complication
The first step in determining if complications from surgery were the result of surgeon negligence is finding out if the negative result was from surgical errors, or if it was a legitimate complication. To try and avoid a malpractice lawsuit, a surgeon will spend a great deal of time reviewing potential complications with patients to make sure that the patients understand the risks. Most surgeons and hospitals have patients sign a form acknowledging that they have been educated about potential complications and they accept the risks.
A complication is something that occurs despite the surgeon’s best efforts to prevent it. For example, if a surgeon works hard to preserve a particular nerve during surgery but the nerve dies because of something the body did after the surgery was completed, then that is a complication. The surgeon attempted to preserve the nerve, but a side-effect of the process that could not be avoided wound up killing the nerve anyway.
An error is an example of surgeon negligence that leads to medical complications, or even death, for the patient. For example, the surgeon understands the importance of preserving the nerve in the above example but takes no steps in avoiding or safeguarding the nerve from damage. Because of careless planning and execution, the surgeon cuts the nerve and the patient loses some kind of functionality for the rest of their life.
Who Is Responsible For Errors And Complications?
A complication can be a difficult malpractice lawsuit to win, especially if the patient signed a document saying that they understood the risks. Most surgeons are extremely careful to explain potential complications, and if all known precautions are taken to prevent the complication, then a lawsuit would be very difficult to win.
With an error, a malpractice lawsuit would be the proper tool to use to get the patient the compensation they need to have the error possibly corrected, to have the funds they need to live as comfortable of a life as possible. How do you know when a surgical error has occurred and is the surgeon the only person you would sue?
Common Types Of Surgical Problems
Some of the most common types of surgical errors include:
- Damaging nerves
- Leaving surgical instruments in patients after the procedure
- Improper administration of medication or anesthesia
- Making incisions in the wrong places
- Performing the wrong type of procedure
- Removing the wrong organ
Being a surgeon is not an easy job, but near perfection is to be expected from both surgeon and attending medical staff to avoid a malpractice lawsuit. But surgeons are human, and accidents happen when humans are involved. Some of the most common reasons for surgical errors include:
- A surgeon’s inexperience with a procedure
- Poor planning prior to the surgery
- A surgeon who is overworked or does not get the right amount of rest
- Surgeons who try to cut out certain steps in a procedure to hurry the process
- A surgeon who is incapacitated by drugs or alcohol
- A surgeon and his staff not having good communication during the procedure
Suing After An Error Occurs
It is extremely important that victims of surgical errors hire very experienced attorneys to pursue any malpractice lawsuit. The first thing your attorney will want to determine is whether or not to sue just the surgeon, or sue the hospital as well. In some cases, surgical errors are the result of inadequate equipment or staff supplied by the hospital, or the hospital’s staff may have mixed up the surgical records and caused the surgeon to perform the wrong procedure on a patient.
Your lawyer will also need to have a process in place where experts determine if your condition was the result of a surgical error, or if you are simply showing complications from surgery. As discussed earlier, if your condition is the result of complications, then your case may be very difficult to win. Your lawyer will need expert doctors to testify that there was some sort of error committed that induced the complication, which can be a very hard sell to any jury.
What Should You Do If You Were The Victim Of Surgical Procedure Error?
One of the more unfortunate aspects of surgical errors is that many do not start to show any effects until months or even years after the procedure. In some cases, patients may not remember who did the surgery and the surgeon may have left the hospital where the procedure was performed. Anyone who has a surgical procedure done should keep all of their records in the event that something happens as a result of that surgery.
The importance of hiring an experienced attorney cannot be overstated. A well-trained malpractice lawsuit attorney will have a network of medical experts in place who can examine you and help to put together the evidence of what really happened. Without the proper experience, an attorney will be unable to put together a good case for your malpractice lawsuit.
Your health is your most important asset, and the large majority of people trust that asset to the hands of trained surgical professionals. However, surgeons are humans and their staff is made up of people who are capable of errors. While surgical errors in a hospital setting are rare, outpatient procedures account for hundreds of surgical errors every year. The effects of these errors can cause drug addiction, permanent nerve damage, or even death.
It is important that anyone who has a surgical procedure also has a health proxy in place so that important decisions can be made for them if they are unable to make them for themselves. It is also vital to keep all records of your surgery in the event something goes wrong. If you are the victim of a complication, then there might not be much you can do. But if you are the victim of a surgical error, then you need to seek out compensation as soon as possible so that you can have the surgeon’s negligence remedied, and so that you can try to get back to your normal daily routine.