When a doctor makes errors during a surgical procedure that harm a patient, in those cases where the patient becomes aware that a preventable error is the cause of the complications, it is often cause for a medical malpractice claim for compensation.
In an article published in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association), a study by the Veterans Health Administration estimated that in the United States between five and ten patients fall victim to surgical errors every day. The study found that poor communication was the most common underlying cause of errors during surgery.
Types of Surgical Errors
Some types of errors that could indicate malpractice include:
- Failing to monitor the patient
- Performing the procedure on the wrong site in the body
- Damaging a nerve
- Damaging a blood vessel
- Leaving foreign objects in the body
- Mismatching donor and recipient, or transmitting disease though blood or donor organ
- Radiation errors
- Incorrect measurements resulting in leg length disparity in hip replacement surgery
The greatest numbers of incidents were in ophthalmology, invasive radiology, and orthopedics, whereas pulmonary medicine cases and wrong-site cases were the ones in which the most harm was done to the patients.
Consequences of Surgical Errors
Research reported in Medical Care found that a patient who is a victim of surgical error is seven times more likely to die in the hospital than one who is not; patients who survive are frequently readmitted to the hospital within three months for a variety of complications, including collapsed lung or respiratory failure, hemorrhage, hematoma, open wounds at suture site, infection, or sepsis.
What to Do When You Discover You Were Harmed During Surgery
Patients typically are unaware at the time of the surgery that something has gone wrong. Many times, you only discover that there was an error later on, when you begin to develop unexpected symptoms. These cases are sometimes tricky to prove, as doctors are understandably not often willing to own up to a mistake that can be covered up. Wrong-site surgeries are usually immediately apparent, but surgical implements left in the body may take weeks, months, or years to discover.
Experienced Lawyers for Complex Cases
California has complex statutes of limitations that apply in medical malpractice cases, so you need a malpractice lawyer with plenty of experience to help you pursue a claim for surgical error. The usual statute of limitations on medical malpractice in California is only one year; however, if the claim is because of a foreign object left inside the body, the statute will not begin to run until the patient discovers or should have discovered the object. Claims involving a government hospital may have a statute of limitations as short as six months.
These cases require lawyers who are familiar with medical practice and procedure and who understand medical terminology. They also require medical experts to analyze records and determine when and where the error took place and how it produced the harm that the patient experienced.
The medical malpractice attorneys at the Abronson law firm are accustomed to handling complex and difficult malpractice cases. They have access to well respected doctors who will provide the expert medical testimony that these cases usually require and they are committed to improving the safety of patients everywhere by holding negligent and incompetent doctors, hospitals, and other health professional accountable for the damage they have done.
If you live in Santa Clara County or anywhere in the Bay Area and believe you or a family member has been the victim of medical malpractice, contact Abronson Law Offices in Los Gatos for a free consultation.
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