What are Surgical Errors?
A surgical error is a preventable mistake that occurs during a surgical procedure. While it is true that all surgeries involve some element of risk, a surgical error goes beyond that risk, suggesting that the surgeon failed to act in a way that another surgeon would have done, given the same circumstances. The “known risks” of surgery are generally covered in an informed consent signed by the patient; however, surgical errors are unexpected outcomes directly caused by an action or lack of action on the surgeon’s part.
Many surgical errors can occur, with few being as terrifying as the ones known as “never” events—wrong-site, wrong-procedure, wrong-patient. These are surgical errors that should never occur—and when they do, there are likely underlying severe safety problems. Those who have suffered a severe injury due to a surgical error need strong legal counsel by their side to ensure equitable compensation. The Brothers Law Firm has the experience to be a strong advocate in your corner when medical malpractice has occurred.
Are Surgical Errors Common?
Even though “never” events should never occur—they do. According to WebMD, more than 4,000 surgical mistakes occur each year, and, over a twenty-year period, more than 10,000 “never” events occurred. The most common types of “never” events that occur are leaving a foreign object like a sponge or towel inside a patient’s body following a surgical procedure, performing the wrong procedure on a patient, and operating on the wrong body site. Over the past few years, more safeguards have been put into place to avoid “never” events.
What are the Most Common Types of Surgical Errors?
Aside from the “never” surgical errors, there are other types of more common—but still unacceptable—surgical errors, such as:
- Anesthesia errors—when too much anesthesia is administered, the patient may be oxygen-deprived, leading to brain damage or even death. When an insufficient level of anesthesia is administered, the patient could awaken during the procedure, experiencing excruciating pain levels. Many other anesthesia errors can occur, and that qualify as medical negligence.
- Nerve damage—A slip of the scalpel can lead to a damaged nerve, and a damaged nerve can result in a lifetime of pain, infection, and disability.
- Bowel perforation during a routine colonoscopy or polyp removal. When this occurs, bacteria from the bowel can flood the abdominal cavity, leading to sepsis or peritonitis.
- Lacerated bladder or colon during a tubal ligation or hysterectomy. A laceration of the bladder or colon can cause excessive bleeding, blood clots in the legs, and blood clots that migrate to the lungs, causing pulmonary embolism or even death.
- Accidentally cutting the muscles that control eye movement during sinus surgery. When this occurs, a patient may experience chronic double vision, losing the ability to work, read, or drive.
Why Do Surgical Errors Occur?
Since no two surgical procedures (and no two people) are exactly alike, every surgery error can be somewhat unique. Even so, there are still some common reasons for surgical errors, such as:
- Incompetence on the surgeon’s part—perhaps the surgeon has not performed the procedure before (or has not performed it very often), is not specifically trained in the procedure, or simply lacks the necessary skills.
- Failure to prepare for the surgical procedure on the part of the surgeon. Surgeons must review and prepare for every surgery. This includes thoroughly reviewing the patient’s medical history and being ready for any complication.
- Taking shortcuts—A surgeon may determine that specific steps are unnecessary; however, taking shortcuts can result in surgical errors.
- Failure to properly communicate with nurses and other surgical staff.
- Miscommunication regarding medication dosage
- An overly tired surgeon
- An impaired surgeon
- A surgeon that is neglectful
When is a Bad Surgical Outcome Medical Malpractice?
Not all adverse surgical outcomes result from medical malpractice; sometimes, especially during an emergency, the surgeon must make the best choices possible, given their knowledge of the situation. The surgeon may not be aware of health issues or allergies on the part of the patient and may merely be doing his or her best to save the patient’s life.
Specific surgical procedures have a much higher risk than others; therefore, a bad outcome is not necessarily related to surgical error or negligence. In other words, standard procedures can be followed closely, and all processes could be correct, yet a patient could still die or have a bad outcome.
Determining whether surgical error or medical malpractice applies to any case involves determining whether another surgeon, given the same set of circumstances, would have acted in the same manner. When a surgeon deviates from standard protocols, then he or she may be liable for medical malpractice.
What Types of Compensation Could Be Available Following a Surgical Error?
Suppose the negligence of a surgeon results in injury. In that case, the injured patient (or his or her family members, in the event of death) may be able to collect compensation for losses via a medical malpractice lawsuit. Economic and non-economic compensation could include:
- All medical expenses related to the injury, including hospital costs, physician and surgical costs, doctor visits, rehabilitative therapies, prescription medications, and assistive aids.
- Lost wages, if work is missed as a result of the injury. If the injured patient is unable to ever return to work, then lost future wages could also be part of the compensation.
- Impairment payments if the injuries have resulted in a partial or total disability, leaving the patient unable to participate in prior activities.
- Payment for disfigurement, if the negligence resulted in scars, missing or deformed body parts, or other types of disfigurement.
- Pain and suffering for any physical pain resulting from the negligence and the resulting injury.
- Mental anguish, including depression, distress, anxiety, or PTSD resulting from the injury.
- Loss of consortium encompasses loss of physical intimacy or companionship resulting from the injuries.
- Lost care, maintenance, services, support, advice, and counsel the deceased would have provided his or her surviving family member.
- Lost love, companionship, comfort, and society.
- Lost inheritance, including what the deceased would likely have saved and left to surviving family members if he or she had lived a normal expected lifetime.
How The Brothers Law Firm Can Help You Following a Surgical Error
The Brothers Law Firm is fiercely committed to those who have suffered an injury due to a surgical error and clear medical malpractice. Medical malpractice claims can be complicated, requiring in-depth knowledge of the laws governing claims. Attorney John Brothers is a highly skilled negotiator, as well as an aggressive litigator when warranted. At The Brothers Law Firm, we have the focus, experience, and resources to ensure you are adequately compensated for your injuries. Contact The Brothers Law Firm today for a comprehensive evaluation of your surgical error claim.