What is Surgical Malpractice?

February 26, 2018 | Crandall & Pera Law
What is Surgical Malpractice?

Surgery, regardless of how minor it may be, is always significant to the individual undergoing the procedure. Whether the surgery involves a fast outpatient procedure or something as serious as a heart bypass, there is always a certain risk of an error occurring. However, an error involved in a surgical procedure by itself does not necessarily equate to medical malpractice.

What is a surgical error?

A surgical error is a preventable mistake that occurs during the course of surgery. Due to the fact that all surgeries in one way or the other carry an element of risk, as a patient you are typically required to sign an informed consent document that verifies you understand the risks involved.

Has surgical malpractice occurred?

In order to qualify as malpractice, the medical treatment or surgery in question must have been carried out at a substandard level – that is, a level below the accepted medical standard of care. The standard of care is generally defined as the accepted safety standards a reasonable surgeon would be expected to meet in similar circumstances.  If a surgical error did not fall below that standard of care, or you did not incur harm from the error, no surgical malpractice may be claimed.

It is important to hold doctors, nurses, and surgeons responsible for failures to provide proper care due to malpractice. This can be done by proving that the proper safety standards were not met and it resulted in the patient’s injuries and suffering.

Types of surgical errors

Various types of surgical errors that constitute surgical malpractice can occur in the operating room. These include:

  • Failure to properly sterilize equipment

  • Operating on the wrong part of the body leading to health complications, physical damage, or the removal of a body part or limb in error

  • Failure to properly handle anesthesia

  • Mistakes that lead to cutting or damaging a body part in the vicinity of the operational zone, such as a nerve, organ, artery, tissue, intestine, or ligament.

  • Performing an unnecessary surgery

  • Failure to remove surgical instruments or sponges from inside the patient’s body

  • Performing an operation on the wrong patient

Astonishing surgical malpractice examples

Some of the stories involving surgical malpractice are truly astounding. Below are a couple of real-life occurrences:

Surgeon’s tools left inside patient

At Washington Medical Center in June 2000, Donald Church, 49, was put under surgery with properly administered anesthesia to remove a tumor in his abdomen. The surgical removal of the tumor was successful. However, in its place was left a medical instrument – a 13 inch long metal retractor.

Heart surgery on wrong patient

A 67-year-old woman had a procedure done in the hospital called a cerebral angiography. After the procedure was completed she was taken to a hospital room on a different floor from the one prior to her procedure. The plan was to have her discharged the next morning. Instead, she was taken to another area for an invasive cardiac electrophysiology study. The woman was subjected to the procedure for about an hour. The procedure was stopped and the woman was returned to her room. Although in stable condition, the consequences of what was done increased her risk of infection, internal bleeding, stroke, and heart attack.

If the medical profession has failed you or a family member through medical malpractice, you need a strong advocate to ensure you can recover the damages you are owed. Our team at Crandall & Pera Law can help. Call our Kentucky office at 877-651-7764 or our Ohio office at 877-686-8879, or complete our contact form to schedule a free, no obligation consultation with a medical malpractice lawyer.