Research from Johns Hopkins University shows that surgical errors rank third among the top causes of death behind cancer and heart attacks. While patients commonly sign waivers to acknowledge they are aware of the risks of surgery, it doesn’t excuse the doctor from providing a patient with the utmost care. Though surgical errors are rare, they still happen, but several factors must apply to make it a valid malpractice case in California.
Common surgical errors
Common errors form the acronym WSPE: wrong-site, wrong-procedure, wrong-patient error. One surgical error involves a surgeon operating on the wrong side of the body or the wrong body part. This may occur because someone marked the wrong site. A doctor may operate on someone by mistake due to him or her having a similar name to another patient or perform the wrong procedure.
A common error involves leaving surgical instruments inside the patient, which often causes further issues. Many factors could cause these errors, including incompetence, poor communication and fatigue.
Factors in valid malpractice cases
The first factor to prove is a medical standard of care. This means the doctor follows the same protocol a reasonable physician would use in the same situations, including the training and supervising of staff. However, under the duty of care, the patient and doctor must have an established relationship, which treatment records can prove.
Part of the duty of care includes informed consent. Before surgery, the physicians should explain the procedure in depth, discuss the risks no matter how small they may be, talk about the benefits and offer alternatives. For example, if a doctor doesn’t explain that local anesthesia carries a low risk of anaphylaxis, and the patient develops severe allergic reactions, it could be considered malpractice.
Some claims derive from the doctor giving patients the wrong medication or an incorrect dosage, causing a preventable negative reaction. Pharmacies in and out of the hospital should ensure that patients receive the correct medication. People often receive the wrong treatment or incorrect medication due to a misdiagnosis of a condition.
In some situations, the doctor or medical staff admits the mistake, but this seldom occurs with medical malpractice cases. Patients who feel avoidable surgical errors caused their issues have the right to consult an attorney to recover damages.