Ways surgical errors could lead to medical malpractice

Posted in: Catastrophic Personal Injury | Apr 29,2022

Medical errors became the third leading cause of death for Americans in 2016, surpassing strokes, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes. Unfortunately, today, hospitals are experiencing pandemic-induced staff shortages and organizational issues that further increase the likelihood of medical errors. In this post, we’ll discuss medical malpractice and how surgical errors could lead to medical malpractice.

What Is Considered Medical Malpractice?

Medical malpractice is an act of negligence performed by a medical professional directly leading to a patient’s harm.

How Surgical Errors Happen

Surgical errors are a leading form of malpractice, and they can be catastrophic; a simple mistake in surgery can result in dire consequences for a patient. Of course, doctors and nurses work long hours, leading to errors made out of exhaustion. The busy nature of the job combined with many patients may also lead to negligence. Medical professionals are humans and, as such, will make mistakes.

Common surgical errors include nerve damage, inadequate care before, during, or after an operation, or improper use of anesthesia. If the hospital is unorganized or the surgeon negligent, equipment may not be sanitized or, in some cases, even left inside a patient.

What is an Example of Medical Malpractice Due to a Surgical Error?

Patient A has a leg injury that requires simple surgery. During the surgery, the patient has a complication. The surgeon negligently fails to notice and/or address the complication, which leads to the patient requiring a second surgery to amputate the leg. The unnecessary loss of the leg is devastating to the patient, as they are now missing a vital body part. Combined with working a physical job before the surgery, the patient now has a high loss of wages.

Who is Responsible for Surgical Errors?

If an actual surgical error happens during the surgery–and if it harms the patient–the surgeon will most likely be held responsible. However, surgeries are a tremendously orchestrated team effort; if, for example, a medication (or positioning) error occurs at any time before/during/after the surgery, the hospital may be held responsible. There may be more than one defendant who bears responsibility too.

Medical malpractice from surgical errors can result from an action or inaction of doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists, emergency medical technicians, pharmacists, or any medical professional. Any individual licensed to work in medicine is considered a professional and has the potential to be one of the perpetrators of medical malpractice.

Are Surgical Complications Malpractice?

All surgeries come with risks of complications. A complication in the operating room does not necessarily mean you have a case. In other words, a bad surgical outcome does not necessarily mean negligence occurred. 

However, if a patient suffers direct harm from a preventable complication, then that may very well be medical malpractice. If a surgical error directly leads to the complication, if a complication was not dealt with properly, or if the surgeon could not identify or explain the risk for a complication such as a stroke before the surgery, you may have a case.

How Can You Prove Medical Malpractice?

Not all errors in a hospital room are considered malpractice. If an error is promptly dealt with and no harm occurs to the patient, it’s unlikely the basis of a case. The case will have to be evaluated by a professional to prove malpractice. If the professional can determine the patient was provided inadequate care and was directly harmed, there may be a case. The harm must be a direct result of receiving inadequate care at the hands of a medical professional.

Other Types of Medical Errors Resulting in Medical Malpractice

The misdeeds of any medical professional can have devastating outcomes. Medical procedures besides surgeries may lead to errors resulting in medical malpractice. Specific examples of medical errors include:

  • Misdiagnosis
  • Improper emergency response
  • Medication and prescription errors
  • Improper use of anesthesia
  • Hospital, nurse, or caretaker negligence
  • Unsuitable pregnancy care
  • Childbirth mistakes that cause direct harm to the mother or child
  • Dental malpractice
  • Unaddressed complications or risks
  • Misread X-rays, CT Scans, or MRIs
  • Failure to address specific health concerns
  • Failure to provide adequate care before or after a medical procedure
  • Operating on the wrong patient

It can be devastating to face any medical error, and victims of medical practice may feel lost and unsure where to go after such an unfortunate mistake. Montross Miller understands these complex cases and knows how to help patients move forward.