Surgery is necessary for treating specific conditions, but it usually has risks. Patients may sustain injuries or die, especially if the procedure involves sensitive and vital organs. But if the patient suffers damage not because of these risks but because of the hospital staff’s negligence, the incident may result in a medical malpractice claim.
Understanding surgical error
Surgical errors are injuries that occur during surgery but are not among the risks associated with the procedure. As a form of medical malpractice, they usually happen because surgeons and hospital staff fail to provide patients with the appropriate standard of care. In this context, standard of care generally covers what a prudent health care professional might do to avoid errors and provide care for the patient.
A surgical error usually qualifies as medical malpractice if it causes an injury. Cutting a centimeter too far may be a mistake, for instance, but it might not qualify as malpractice if it does not cause harm.
Similarly, not all complications and bad outcomes constitute surgical error and malpractice. For example, shock and excessive bleeding may injure or kill a patient, but these are usually among the expected risks of surgery. They may happen even when surgeons observe the proper standard of care.
Examples of surgical errors
The following surgical errors may result in hospital staff being liable for medical malpractice:
- Anesthesia errors. During surgery, the anesthesiologist typically has to monitor the anesthetics administered to the patient carefully. Too much and the patient may suffer brain injuries or die; too little and the patient may feel pain throughout the procedure.
- Wrong procedure or location. Poor communication and coordination among hospital staff may result in the surgeon performing the wrong procedure or operating on the wrong body part.
- Injuring other organs. During surgery, a surgeon may cut too far or an adjacent organ, resulting in significant injuries to the patient.
- Leaving surgical equipment. Some surgeons leave tools and equipment inside the patient’s body, such as forceps, sponges and scissors.
Surgical errors can have severe and long-term consequences on patients. However, proving that an injury is a surgical error and a form of malpractice is often complex. A medical malpractice attorney can help by reviewing a patient’s situation and protecting their rights and building a strong case against the responsible parties.