An overview of surgical errors and medical malpractice

November 9, 2021 | Crandall & Pera Law
An overview of surgical errors and medical malpractice

Statistics show that around 4,000 surgical errors are made annually, even with advanced technology. This may be cause for alarm for patients in Cincinnati, Ohio, who expect to come out of surgery unscathed. If a surgeon fails to follow a basic standard of care, they could face a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Surgical errors and medical malpractice

According to a report, surgical errors are the second top reason that patients file medical malpractice claims. Surgical errors may occur during any of the three phases, which include pre-operative, operative, and post-operative. A study found that 76% of malpractice claims between 2014 and 2018 related to actions of the surgeon during the surgery. These errors are often called "never events," or events that should have never happened with proper care. The most common surgical errors include wrong-site surgery, operations on the wrong person, and instruments left inside the patient. Surgical errors are most often caused by incompetent doctors, fatigue, miscommunication, lack of pre-op planning, and alcohol or drugs.

Elements for a claim

To file a medical malpractice claim, the plaintiff needs to prove that the doctor owed them a duty of care. The patient can usually establish this element by providing their treatment records, proving that the doctor had the duty to treat them. If the patient overhears a doctor giving advice and uses it, this would not count as the duty of care. The second element to prove is that the doctor breached their duty of care by not upholding a medical standard that another doctor would have followed. The breach of duty must have caused a real injury to the patient, and the injury resulted in damages that cost the patient. This does not include the patient neglecting to follow post-operative or pre-operative instructions or dissatisfaction with plastic surgery results. Patients have a right to sue for injury, but not all errors meet the criteria for medical malpractice. These claims typically require testimony from another doctor in the same field.