Doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals dedicate their careers to diagnosing, treating, and caring for their patients. Sometimes, the best way to go about treating a condition is to undergo a surgical procedure. There are never any guarantees with any procedure, but a negligent physician can increase the likelihood of something going wrong.
When we undergo a surgical procedure, we are literally putting our lives in the hands of our surgeons. While certain procedures are riskier than others, the risk of a surgical error is always present. Surgical errors are almost always preventable and typically caused by human error. In some instances, surgical mistakes can have catastrophic and fatal consequences.
Doctors in Maryland, and all over the country, have the responsibility to care for patients. When this doesn’t happen, Belsky, Weinberg & Horowitz’s Baltimore surgical errors lawyers are prepared to hold negligent medical professionals and hospitals accountable for their wrongdoings.
If you’ve undergone a procedure that did not end how you planned, you may be wondering if you have grounds to take legal action. Not every surgical mistake is malpractice, so it’s important to be able to identify what constitutes malpractice and how you can benefit from hiring an attorney and filing a claim.
Reasons for Surgical Errors
Thousands of deaths every year are the result of surgical errors. That makes surgical mistakes one of the leading reasons malpractice occurs. Here are some reasons these types of mistakes happen:
- Disregarding Protocol. Disregarding protocol may include taking shortcuts in surgery, neglecting to sanitize the operating room and surgical tools properly, or planning insufficiently. These errors can lead to infection, wrongfully performed procedures, and malfunctioning medical equipment.
- Poor Communication. Mishearing directions, illegible handwriting, or insufficient explanations are common causes of surgical errors. For proper communication to take place, all staff and employees need to regularly check in with each other to ensure patient care is going well and all protocols and procedures are being followed.
- Fatigue. While many hospitals have mandatory work limitations, surgeons often work incredibly long hours. Fatigue negatively impacts the following areas: continuity of care, communication with patients, and the overall quality of the care being provided.
- Drugs or Alcohol. In conjunction with fatigue, doctors may try to stay awake longer using certain drugs. They may also try to cope with the stress of their job with alcohol. Being under the influence of any substance while operating is incredibly reckless and endangers the life of the patient.
- Inexperience. In some instances, a surgeon may be inexperienced with a certain procedure. Inadequate skills and training are extremely dangerous in the operating room. This is often both the fault of the surgeon and the hospital administration.
If you’ve suffered a preventable injury after surgery, it can be difficult to determine how it all happened. Our attorneys will thoroughly investigate your case to determine how your injury occurred. We’ll ensure the negligent party is held accountable for what you’ve been through.
Common Surgical Errors
While you may think surgical errors are more likely to happen with complex surgeries, this is not the case. Surgical errors can happen with any surgery. Here you’ll find a list of some of the most common surgical errors.
- A patient undergoes a surgical procedure meant for someone else. As discussed above, improper communication can have serious consequences. One of those consequences can occur if a patient receives the wrong procedure. This can happen if medical charts are mixed up or the preoperative verification is skipped. This is especially dangerous when organ transplants are involved.
- The surgery is performed on the wrong side of a patient’s body. Miscommunication can cause other severe surgical errors. If a patient isn’t properly marked before surgery, they may undergo a procedure on the wrong side of their body. As a result, a healthy limb or organ could be removed.
- The anesthesia dosage is not calculated correctly. An anesthesiologist has one of the most important jobs before and during surgery. They are supposed to calculate the amount of anesthesia a patient will need to ensure they are properly sedated. Deadly mistakes happen when anesthesia isn’t dosed correctly. There’s a chance a patient may wake up during surgery if not given enough anesthesia, which is referred to as patient awareness. They’re also likely to experience unnecessary pain. If they’re given too much, they may suffer permanent brain damage because the brain won’t get the oxygen it needs during the procedure.
- Foreign objects are left in a patient’s body. Surgeries often require a variety of medical tools and equipment. If a surgeon or surgical team member is careless, foreign objects like clamps, gauze, or even scalpels can be left inside a patient’s body. Severe infection and additional surgeries are often needed when this happens. Additional surgeries can put a patient at risk for greater complications and significantly extend their recovery period.
- A surgeon inflicts nerve damage on a patient. A surgeon is trusted to have steady hands and excellent vision. In the event of even just a small tremor, serious nerve injuries can occur.
Consequences of Surgical Errors
Surgical error consequences do not begin and end in the operating room. Victims of such mistakes often need more extensive medical care then what they were originally told. Extended hospital stays can mean more time away from loved ones, more time off work, and additional and unexpected medical expenses. Patients may also experience temporary or permanent injuries or even death.
If a patient sustains an injury they are able to recover from over time, the medical bills incurred during treatment are likely to be extensive – even with health insurance. Oftentimes, the only way to restore order in your life after a severe surgical injury is to take legal action and file a claim against the guilty party.
Navigating the complexities of a med mal case can be difficult without the right legal representation. We’re here to explain the ins and outs of your case, so you fully understand what you’re up against and how best to go about seeking the compensation you deserve.
Surgical Errors and Medical Malpractice
When considering filing a claim for a surgical error, it’s important to remember that not all bad outcomes automatically qualify as negligence. For example, if you have a severe allergic reaction to anesthesia that you had no idea about, there’s no way a doctor could have known about the reaction. There are, however, accepted standards of care for surgical procedures, and health care professionals are expected to adhere to them.
When a surgeon or surgical team acts outside the realm of the standard of care, they are not practicing medicine in a way a similar specialist would practice in a similar situation. In most surgical cases, it can be simple to establish if your surgeon’s treatment was below the standard of care with the right expert witness. Once you are able to establish the standard of care was breached, your lawyer can help you prove you were harmed by the error.
Proving you were harmed by the surgical mistake starts with examining what the outcome of the procedure should have been versus what it actually was. Your attorney can examine your medical records and any other documentation you can provide to build a case that exemplifies the correlation between the surgery and your injury.
After proving malpractice occurred, compensation can be calculated. Any additional medical expenses incurred because of the outcome can be considered financial damage. Financial damage may also come in the form of time away from work if your injury prevented you from work and collecting wages.
In addition to the financial aspect related to the physical harm, it’s also possible you suffered mentally from the trauma you were put through. If you are unable to return to your previous job or have to significantly alter your way of life, you may be experiencing pain and suffering. Your attorney can examine what you’ve been through and calculate what you’re owed.
It’s important to remember you need to file your claim with the state-established statute of limitations to be eligible for compensation. In Maryland, you have anywhere from three to five years to take legal action. Your attorney, based on your circumstances, will be able to tell you how much time you actually have.
Our Attorneys Can Help
While surgical errors happen for a variety of reasons, their occurrences are never, under any circumstances, acceptable. Medical malpractice cases are often incredibly complex. Let our team handle the legal burdens of your case, so you can focus on your recovery. We serve clients in Baltimore and the surrounding areas. Contact our office today for a free consultation.