A surgeon’s job is extremely demanding, requiring precise attention to detail, steady hands, and an ever-growing body of medical knowledge. It’s crucial that patients be able to trust their caregivers, whether they’re going under the blade for a simple appendectomy or complex reconstructive surgery. While a tragic outcome isn’t necessarily medical malpractice, it often is medical malpractice when a surgeon ignores or acts against established standards of care.
In the field of medical malpractice, surgical errors make up a significant portion of cases. The effects of a surgical mistake can stay with the patient for years, and the costs associated with repairing a surgical error are often exorbitant. In this area of our practice, we help patients who have been harmed by a surgeon’s negligence.
Surgical Error Examples
There are hundreds of ways a surgical team can act negligently before, during, and after a surgical procedure. Examples include:
- Anesthesia errors, including incorrect dosing, using a medication that a patient is allergic to and failing to properly observe a patient while under anesthesia
- Damage caused to the muscles, ligaments, organs, and other tissues around the surgery site
- Infection caused by poor hygiene or hygiene protocols
- Forgetting to remove surgical instruments from the surgical cavity
- Operating on the incorrect body part
- Premature discharge from the surgical facility
Deviating from the Standard of Care
In an effort to minimize preventable deaths and negative patient outcomes, the medical field has a stringent set of care standards. In the surgical field, surgeons are expected to adhere to an extensive list of standards every time they work with a patient. These standards are a useful part of your medical malpractice case. An attorney will examine care standards and your surgeon’s actions. They’ll compare those actions to what they would expect a reasonably skilled surgeon in the same field to do when presented with a similar set of circumstances. If your surgeon’s actions directly violate the industry’s accepted set of care standards, it may be medical malpractice.
What Causes Surgical Errors
Several factors play a role in surgical error cases. We can assess where the breakdown occurred by studying surgical records and documentation. In most surgical error cases, one or more of the following issues come into play:
- Communication: is an essential part of a smoothly run surgical procedure, which is why most hospitals and healthcare centers have strict protocols in place that require care providers to verify that they have the correct patient, are performing the correct procedure, and are operating on the correct body part. These protocols often require other team members—including nurses and surgical technicians—to speak up if the surgeon is violating care standards. When these protocols are ignored, surgical errors are almost inevitable.
- Diagnosis: An improper or missed diagnosis can lead to unnecessary surgery, surgery on the wrong body part, or even surgery on the wrong patient.
- Judgment: Surgeons are expected to have razor-sharp judgment, particularly in the high-stress environment of a surgical room. A simple error in judgment—deciding to carry on with surgery when the patient does not appear to be tolerating surgery well, rushing through a surgery that requires precision, or proceeding without enough team members present—can lead to serious or fatal surgical errors.
Seeking Damages for Surgical Errors
Surgical errors can cause a wide range of problems. Patients may have limited or no feeling at the surgical site or in the affected limb, need extensive medical care to recover from unnecessary surgery or a post-operative infection, require follow-up surgery to correct previous errors, or even die as a result of poor care. It is crucial to hold surgeons accountable for the care they provide to patients. If you’ve been injured by a surgeon’s error, you may be able to seek damages for medical expenses, future medical expenses and care needs, lost income, lost future income if your earning ability is permanently affected, pain and suffering, and more.
Turn to Doughty Alcaraz for Your Medical Malpractice Case
At Doughty Alcaraz, we are dedicated to helping injured patients and families of deceased patients seek compensation for care providers’ errors. To discuss the details of your case and plan your next step, contact us at 505-242-7070 to schedule a consultation.