Surgical Errors

Any surgery, from cosmetic to life saving, comes with some risk. In addition to the standard risks, surgeries also come with life-threatening risks like anesthesia errors. While surgical risks have decreased in recent years, patients still face serious risks of injuries or death. So how does one know if a surgery gone wrong is just an unfortunate incident or surgical malpractice?

Bad Luck vs. Surgical Malpractice 

Just because a surgery goes well doesn’t mean a patient won’t suffer an injury. Strict protocols dictate how and when doctors perform surgery. These protocols often help define the “standard of care.” When protocols are not followed, a standard of care is violated, and damage results, this can rise to the level of surgical malpractice.

Who Can Cause Surgical Errors?

Surgeons have a great responsibility to every patient that trusts them with a procedure – and their life. When a surgeon acts negligently during surgery, the repercussions can be life altering or life ending for patients. Surgeons who harm a patient can be held liable for their mistakes, especially the catastrophic ones like operating on the wrong body part, operating while under the influence or fatigued, and making sloppy mistakes like cutting or injuring other body parts during a procedure.

Anesthesiologists’ role during surgery is significant, as the patient trusts that the anesthesiologist not only administered the correct medication but also in the correct dosage for the patient’s body and procedure. If an incorrect amount or the wrong drug is administered, and the patient is not properly monitored during surgery, they risk feeling pain during a procedure, waking up during a procedure, or being unable to wake up from anesthesia after an operation has ended.

Surgical Nurses specialize in assisting surgeons and anesthesiologists during surgery. Because surgical nurses are integral for medical procedures, liability also extends to them when they assist during surgery. While their professional duty is to “assist” during operations, the responsibility nurses have to patients goes beyond that. Nurses can injure patients if they are under the influence, fatigued, or fail to conduct appropriate post-surgical care.

Hospitals can also be found liable for patient injuries and death. Poorly maintained or unsanitary surgical facilities expose patients to increased surgical risks. State and federal regulations require hospitals to maintain certain safety protocols to protect patients. When hospitals neglect these required rules, patients suffer unnecessary and preventable infections or illness that can be fatal.

Doctors who fail to conduct proper testing or who incorrectly diagnose patients should be held liable for their harmful negligence. Surgeons and surgical staff trust that a physician has completed all necessary requirements and through their findings have recommended a sound treatment plan to patients. If a doctor demonstrates incompetence in care, patients risk not only suffering a misdiagnosis, which leaves their original injury or illness untreated, but they also risk repercussions to the body from undergoing an unnecessary or incorrect surgery.

Examples of Common Surgical Errors 

  • Incompetence is a major factor in surgical errors, and this should alarm patients. Surgery is a complex and competitive field, but when surgeons do not possess the latest skills and training, they can be guilty of surgical malpractice should they harm a patient. Patients place their lives in the hands of surgeons because they trust they have full knowledge and competency to successfully operate.
  • Proper planning is absolutely crucial to the success of a surgery and a patient’s health. Just as in anything complex, planning is everything. All medical personnel involved in a procedure must review a patient’s medical history prior to an operation so that easily preventable mistakes, additional injuries, or wrongful death can be avoided. Things like allergies, drug reactions, and previous surgeries matter when a patient is undergoing an additional procedure and being administered anesthesia. Evaluating whether a surgery is worth the risks cannot occur without this information.
  • Communication errors sadly go hand-in-hand with improper planning and pre-op protocol. Horror stories of incorrect surgeries illustrate the dangers of communication errors. Also called wrong site surgery, these are devastating and lead to serious injury, irreparable injury, and death.
  • Equipment errors are tragically more common than patients realize. Regulations require the sanitation of surgical equipment before surgeries. After a procedure, surgeons or hospital staff must account for all surgical equipment. These procedures prevent postoperative infections and keep items from being left inside s patient.
  • Neglect is a leading cause of illness and death to hospital patients. This happens when failures like having instruments and other equipment not be properly sterilized or maintained occur, which can cause life-threatening conditions like infectionand septic shock.

Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Attorneys

All surgeries carry risk, but if surgical errors occur, patients have the right to seek financial compensation for their injuries. While patients might feel afraid to speak out against their surgeon, anesthesiologist, nurse, and/or hospital, doing so can prevent more terrible mistakes from happening to other patients – and even save lives. Unfortunately, and all too often serious cases of negligence and wrongdoing that cause patients to suffer unnecessarily are swept under the rug by hospitals and their staff. No patient should ever be duped into receiving inadequate and life threatening care at the hands of those they’ve trusted with their life. If you or someone you love has been injured by a surgical error, contact the Philadelphia medical malpractice attorneys at Lopez McHugh LLP today to discuss your case at no cost.



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