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Yale Doctor Performs Wrong Surgery: Wrong-Site Surgeries More Common than You Might Think

Just recently, national headlines shocked Americans by reporting the case of a 60-year-old woman who suffered not one but two instances of medical malpractice in one day. The woman has now filed suit against the physician and hospital, among other defendants, alleging that she went to the hospital that day for surgery to remove potentially cancerous portions of her 8th rib, but upon waking up from anesthesia, x-rays revealed that doctors had removed her 7th rib instead.

While it is bad enough that the surgeon made the initial mistake, it is worse that he lied to the patient. Instead of explaining the error, the doctor told the patient that “not enough rib” was removed. Thus, the patient had to undergo a second, and entirely unnecessary, procedure in the same day.

What is the prevalence of wrong-site surgical error?

In general, these types of medical mistakes are fairly rare. Nevertheless, according to authors, Deborah F. Mulloy and Ronda G. Hughes of the book, Patient Safety and Quality: An Evidence-Based Handbook for Nurses, as few as 10 percent of all wrong-site surgical errors are actually reported. Therefore, the prevalence could be much higher than previously thought.

How many doctors make these types of major mistakes?

In addition to their findings, Mulloy and Hughes also discovered that approximately one out of every 112,994 surgical procedures involved a wrong-site element, meaning at least in some way the surgery involved parts of the body that did not require surgery at all. To put this in terms of individual doctors, roughly one out of five hand surgeons commits this sort of negligence at some point in their career. One out of four orthopedic surgeons with at least 25 years of experience will have performed a wrong-site surgery.

How does the law treat a wrong-site surgery?

Negligence is, simply put, the act of violating one of society’s implied duties that we all owe each other and, in turn, harming someone. A simple example is that of a driver. We all owe each other the basic duty of reasonable care when driving on public roadways. When drivers violate that duty by driving carelessly, accidents happen. If a driver violates that duty and also harms someone in some way, then he is legally responsible for paying for the injuries he caused. This is largely done through insurance subrogation, meaning the insurance company steps in to pay the tab instead of the individual.

There are, however, special circumstances where the law automatically presumes negligence. A concept known as per se negligence suggests that if not for some event, the injury would not have occurred. In other words, nothing else could have caused this injury. When a doctor leaves a surgical tool inside a patient or removes the wrong body part, the injuries can be pain, suffering, repeated unnecessary surgeries, added healthcare costs, and years of potential side effects and complications. In cases like the Yale surgeon removing the wrong rib, it is likely an example of per se negligence, because if not for the fact that the wrong rib was removed, it is very unlikely a second procedure would have been performed. This type of legal presumption helps plaintiffs recover damages for their injuries.

Victims of medical malpractice

If you or someone you love is seriously injured or killed due to medical malpractice, you need experienced representation. Do not trust the insurance company to explain your rights. As the Yale case illustrates, doctors and other providers often lie or otherwise attempt to cover up their mistakes. You need the very best legal team you can get. The personal injury attorneys of Simms Showers, LLP serve clients in Leesburg, Fairfax and the northern Virginia area and are dedicated to fighting for your rights and getting you the compensation you deserve.

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