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We Explain Some of the Worst Medical Mistakes During Surgery
$68 MillionLargest Jury Verdict in Fresno County history for failure to comply with hospital standards for patient safety, leaving elderly man in permanent coma. Jury also awarded punitive damages.$5.5 MillionSettlement for failure to diagnose acute blood loss after cancer surgery resulting in brain damage to physician$7 MillionPlus Settlement: Negligent performance of intubation post-operatively, resulting in severe brain damage to minor child.$10.8 MillionConfidential settlement for an adult who suffered catastrophic injury from a stroke$22 MillionRobyn Frankel vs. Palo Alto Medical Foundation GroupJury verdict for paralysis caused to patient after an unnecessary procedure.$4.25 MillionSettlement for failure to quickly respond to a minor plaintiff’s hyperthermia after surgery resulting in catastrophic injuries including brain damage$4 MillionSettlement for failure to diagnose fetal distress resulting in minor plaintiff suffering from severe static encephalopathy$5.5 MillionSettlement for failure to diagnose and treat kernicterus resulting in severe brain damage of child
Medical mistakes affect an estimated 251,000 to 440,000 US patients each year. Surgical errors are a type of medical mistake that may cause irreversible harm, severe pain or death to patients. For instance, there was a recent story about a Florida woman who suffered severe pain for years due to a surgical error. She discovered that a broken epidural needle had been lodged in her spine for the past 14 years. The medical community calls this type of surgical error a “retained surgical item”. In addition to retained surgical items, other types of surgical errors include:
Wrong-site surgeries. Surgeons may sometimes operate on the wrong part of the body. Depending on the procedure, this type of mistake can lead to permanent disability or death. According to the Joint Commission, an estimated 50 wrong-site surgery errors occur each week in the US.
Wrong-patient surgeries. As the name implies, a wrong-patient surgical error is where a surgeon operates on the wrong patient. Poor communication, confusing the names of patients and other factors may cause this error to occur.
Retained surgical items. We can say more about retained surgical items, a type of surgical error that affects hundreds of US patients each year. Surgeons may leave behind sponges, scissors and other equipment inside of patients. These objects may cause severe chronic pain or infections.
Wrong-procedure surgery. Surgeons may also sometimes conduct the wrong type of procedure on patients. Depending on the procedure and other factors, patients can die or suffer permanent injuries.
Nerve injuries. In some cases, a surgeon may injure nerves while conducting a procedure. Depending on the damage, patients may suffer a partial or total loss of function.
Are Surgical Mistakes Medical Malpractice?
Four of the five mistakes listed above are “never events”. The National Quality Forum maintains a list of these egregious and preventable medical errors. Surgeons, hospitals and other parties may be liable for damages when never events or other surgical mistakes harm patients.
However, it is important to understand medical malpractice claims must meet certain criteria before they can move forward. The California medical malpractice lawyers at Mitchell Leeds, LLP can help you determine whether medical malpractice occurred. For a free consultation with one of our attorneys, call (415) 769-3400 or use our online case review form.