Surgery is a complicated process. It takes years of training and learning in the United States before people are allowed to perform surgery, and then they are only allowed to do it with supervision. For certain specialties, the risks associated with surgery are even higher.
During an operation, there are thousands of things that can go wrong. Even relatively simple procedures are still surgeries, and still carry risks. The goal of surgery is to help a patient get better. In so many cases, though, because of the doctor’s errors, surgery only makes things worse.
If you have been harmed during surgery, you might want to talk to an attorney about your options for a case against the surgeon. If your loved one died during a surgical procedure, you may also have options for compensation. If your surgery was performed at a Baltimore hospital or by a Baltimore-based doctor, you should contact the lawyers at Bennett and Heyman, P.A., whose experienced medical malpractice attorneys have been helping injured clients in Baltimore for decades.
Proving Surgical Errors
When a patient undergoes surgery, they are unconscious, drugged, and fully under the care and control of the doctors and medical staff. This means that the patient is completely unable to witness anything that happens or later report it to a court at trial. Instead, a medical malpractice case is often proved by showing other evidence.
To get evidence for your case, your lawyers may need to do some extensive work. First, your medical records provide an excellent view of what happened during surgery. Since your doctor and the rest of the medical staff are unlikely to admit their errors, you must rely on what is in your medical records and the doctor’s notes.
In almost every case, you need another doctor to examine you to diagnose what went wrong in the previous surgery. If the doctor that harmed you was not able to fix the error, you may also need additional surgery to repair the problems. This can help determine what went wrong in the first place.
Overall, proving that the doctor’s performance in the surgery was an “error” requires looking at the legal requirements for a medical negligence case. In any negligence case against a doctor, you must prove four things:
- The doctor owed the patient a duty.
- The doctor breached the duty.
- The breach caused the patient an injury.
- The injury consists of some harm the court can redress, a.k.a. “damages.”
In general, everyday people, like those who would sit on a jury, do not understand the necessary process involved in surgery. Because of this, proving a medical negligence or surgical error case usually involves calling “expert witnesses.” This means using other doctors of similar qualifications to the one who harmed you to explain what was done, and how it should have been done better.
Part of the proof process requires showing that the harm was because of the doctor’s failure. If the injury you sustained would have occurred even without negligence, you cannot recover damages for that injury. Additionally, just because something went wrong does not mean the doctor was negligent.
Typical Surgical Injuries
Some injuries that can occur during surgery are obvious, and most people would be able to guess that these are usually not supposed to happen. It still usually requires calling an expert witness to show your surgeon’s error. Many common surgical errors include:
- Cutting too deep
- Accidentally cutting blood vessels or nerves
- Only removing part of the piece that was supposed to be removed
- Administering too much or too little anesthesia
- Allowing an infection to enter the opening
- Failing to control bleeding
In other cases, the harm is so obvious that there is no need to call other doctors to explain the standard level of care. These include cases of “gross negligence,” and most juries are able to understand that the care was very wrong. Things like operating on the wrong part of the body, or performing the wrong surgery fall into this category. There are even recorded cases of surgeons amputating the wrong limb or performing procedures on the wrong side of the body.
Even worse, perhaps, is when doctors mix up patients. This may lead to a patient receiving a procedure that was intended for another patient. There are even documented cases of doctors removing organs from the wrong patients. Fortunately, mix-ups of this severity are rare, but more mundane errors occur, such as opening an incision in the wrong part of the body and having to open another one in the correct place.
Another issue that is far too common is doctors accidentally leaving things inside patients. Usually, this involves losing a medical sponge or tool inside the patient. Medical staff is responsible for counting the tools and making sure nothing is left inside. Patients may become very sick or injured from these items inside them, but may still not know the cause of the injury for many years.
Patients can also be injured during surgery due to poor care. “Positioning injuries” are injuries to the nerves in your arms or legs because of how you were left positioned during surgery. When you are unconscious, if your arm is pinched uncomfortably, you cannot move to fix it. If doctors and nurses leave you in these positions, you may suffer personal injury.
Most horrifically, using the wrong amount of anesthesia may have horrible consequences. Too much anesthesia could cause death or serious side effects. The wrong amount of anesthesia could also allow a patient to wake up during surgery or become conscious, but remain trapped and paralyzed by the drugs.
Any error in surgery, if it causes you harm, can be redressed in a court of law.
Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawyers
The lawyers at Bennett and Heyman, P.A., may be able to take your case and help you get compensation for your injuries. For a free consultation with our experienced attorneys, contact us today. Call soon though, because you may need to meet deadlines for your case. Call today at (410) 429-7856.