Are Surgical Errors Medical Malpractice?

Courts consider surgical errors to constitute medical malpractice if a surgeon’s conduct fails to meet the standard of care exercised by any reasonably competent surgeon. In many situations, surgical errors are preventable. In some cases, surgical errors are directly caused by a physician’s incompetence, but most surgical errors are due to inadequate procedures or poor planning. The prevalence of surgeons’ errors is high. Statistics show that surgical errors impact 44,000 to 98,000 patients each year. These errors tend to occur during the most complicated surgeries including those to address motor vehicle accident injuries, heart problems, joint replacements, and organ transplants.

The Ways in Which Surgical Errors can Occur

There are complicated safety protocols concerning how physicians must perform surgery. Even if these guidelines are followed entirely, however, errors are still known to occur. Some of the most common ways in which surgical errors occur include:

  • Fatigue in Combination With Alcohol Use. Medical staff work long hours and sometimes takes alcohol or performance drugs to stay awake. In these cases, surgeries are performed while the medical staff’s judgment is impaired.
  • Incompetence. Surgeons must perform substantial training to satisfy the requirements of their positions. Not all surgeons have the necessary skills to adequately perform the roles of their position, however. When surgeons lack these skills, mistakes are known to be made.
  • Miscommunication. Sometimes, medical staff identifies the wrong patient for surgery or marks the wrong site for surgery. In these cases, a surgeon may be misinformed about other risks associated with the surgery.
  • Neglect. Not properly sterilizing instruments or using defective equipment can result in infections, septic shocks, and many other life-threatening conditions.  

Examples of Surgical Errors

When these surgical errors occur, serious injuries are known to result:

  • Anesthesiology errors
  • Incorrect incisions
  • Leaving equipment inside of a patient
  • Nerve damage
  • Operating on the wrong patient
  • Wrong site surgeries

The Consequences of Surgical Errors

Medscape reports that any patient who experiences a surgical error is seven times more likely to die in the hospital than a person who has not. A person who survives a surgical error is often required to return to the hospital with complications within three months following the error. Some of the complications associated with surgical errors include hematoma, hemorrhages, infections, respiratory failure, open wounds, and sepsis.

Speak to an Experienced New Jersey Medical Malpractice Lawyer

Often times patients who experience surgical errors are not immediately aware that a mistake has occurred. For example, if a surgical instrument was left inside a patient’s body, it might take the patient a significant amount of time before the mistake is discovered. Cases involving surgical errors involve a variety of particularly challenging obstacles. For one, the surgeon or medical professional who performed the error rarely admits to making the error. A medical malpractice attorney often must interview staff about how the error occurred and retain seasoned medical experts.

If you or a loved one have experienced a surgical error that could be deemed medical malpractice, contact the team at The Ferrara Law Firm today. Our counsel is waiting to help with you with a free case evaluation now