Surgeons and other involved medical personnel owe patients a duty of care. In the healthcare setting, this duty of care refers to the medically accepted standard of care. When surgeons and other healthcare professionals fail to live up to their duty, they can cause serious injuries to patients. If a harmful surgical error was made out of negligence, it may be considered medical malpractice.
Medical malpractice is an area of law that deals with substandard medical treatment resulting in harm to a patient. Malpractice refers to professional negligence in the healthcare setting.
A medical malpractice claim gives hurt patients a way of seeking recourse for their injuries. Under personal injury law, careless healthcare providers can be held liable in civil court. Civil actions are an important part of the judicial system and necessary for professional accountability.
A surgical error is a preventable and unintentional mistake during the operation. It is essential to know that injuries from known risks are not the same as surgical errors. For an event to be defined as a surgical error, the mistake must be preventable and not an identified possible outcome.
Surgical errors are events that are avoidable through proper training, following safety protocols, or in the execution of the operation. Surgeons and other operating room staff must go through years of rigorous training. In addition, numerous safety protocols involve pre-op and post-op considerations. Adequate follow-ups are a large part of the safety protocol to ensure there were no complications from the surgery.
Operating procedures vary considerably. For example, removing a brain tumor involves very different skills than removing an appendix. Every mistake on the operating table must be held against the set standard of skill and potential risks of similar procedures.
Every surgery involves potential dangers. Before an operation, a patient is made aware of possible side effects and other known risks. Once the surgeon has explained the procedure fully, patients sign an “informed consent” form. If the patient suffers harm outside of the risks listed in the form, it may be a sign of malpractice.
Examples of medical malpractice surgical errors are as follows:
Despite extensive training, medical professionals can make negligent critical errors.
Even similar surgeries may have vast differences. Surgeons and other medical personnel are trained to handle the various nuances of each operation. However, acts of negligence can lead to detrimental surgical errors, including:
According to recent studies, doctors and nurses account for some of the highest rates of substance abuse in the American workforce:
Surgical errors are far more common than the general population realizes.
As more and more Americans undergo surgical procedures, the number of surgical errors continues to rise. In any case, these surgical errors are horrific tragedies and preventable. More than 10% of Americans are killed by medical errors every year, making it the third leading cause of death in the nation.
According to recent studies:
Over the last 20 years, medical malpractice claims have yielded more than $1.3 billion for injured patients. Unfortunately, most surgeons who commit negligent mistakes are not new. Surgical errors happen most often when a surgeon is between the ages of 40 and 49, the peak of a medical professional’s career.
In addition, two-thirds of surgeons involved in operational mistakes had been the subject of past medical malpractice reports. Of all surgeons, 12.4% of negligent doctors were named in more than one preventable surgical error.
Patients are entirely at the mercy of medical staff during surgery. A patient is unconscious in the operating room, dependent on the anesthesiologist to keep them safely sedated and with enough oxygen throughout the procedure. The surgeon and other medical personnel are responsible for operating under the accepted standard of care owed to all patients. Even a small act of negligence can have deadly consequences.
The most common injuries associated with surgical errors consist of the following:
Mistakes during surgery can be life-altering. The slip of a scalpel can cause permanent spinal cord and nerve damage. In severe cases, a patient may wake from an operation with paraplegia.
Surgical errors can lead to a patient’s death during the operation or soon after. A patient can bleed out during the procedure if an artery or organ is mistakenly nicked. If a surgeon or operating staff is not careful about sterilizing instruments and washing hands, patients can suffer from deadly post-op infections.
Over the decades, research and advances in technology have led to an array of safety procedures to prevent surgical mistakes. The Joint Commission is a non-profit group dedicated to patient safety. The organization accredits and certifies various healthcare facilities and programs that comply with the highest national standards for safety and quality of care.
According to The Joint Commission Patient Safety Goals, current protocols involve:
Surgical errors can also be prevented by increased accountability. Currently, there is a culture of non-reporting of surgical errors. Studies from The Joint Commission indicate the punishment may reduce reporting errors due to disciplinary acts. However, punishment should steer away from shaming medical professionals.
At Graves McLain, our surgical errors lawyers can assist with filing a medical malpractice claim against a negligent medical professional. To schedule a free consultation, please contact the office at (918) 359-6600.
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