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Medical Malpractice – Can You Sue for Surgery Performed on the Wrong Body Part

手術部位出錯 我可以提出訴訟嗎?(Can I sue for suffering from wrong-site surgery?)

When most people prepare to undergo surgery, they worry about things like taking time off work, having enough groceries in the house while they recover, and making sure someone is available to drive them home after their procedure. Typically, they don’t worry about waking up to discover their doctor performed surgery on the wrong body part.

However, reports state that doctors in the U.S. operate on the wrong body part an astounding 40 times per week. Sometimes called “wrong site” surgery, these types of medical errors are obviously life-changing for patients. In some cases, patients must immediately undergo another surgery on the correct body part. But what about cases in which a doctor actually removes an organ? What if a doctor amputates the wrong limb?

Tragically, these types of cases occur more often than many people realize, and they are devastating for the patients involved. According to one report, a hospital in Rhode Island operated on the wrong side of a patient’s head in three separate surgeries. One study found that wrong-site surgeries occur between 1,300 and 2,700 times every year in the United States.

Protecting Yourself Against Surgery Performed on the Wrong Body Part

Wrong-site surgery is something no one should ever have to think about, but health safety experts say it’s important to take steps to protect yourself from being a victim of this kind of medical mistake.

Talk to your doctor  Health safety experts recommend speaking to your surgeon just before surgery and discussing the specifics of the procedure. You can even speak to the anesthesiologist immediately prior to surgery to make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to the procedure being performed.

Confirm your procedure with nurses and medical staff  A typical surgery involves a team of health professionals, from nurses and residents to surgical techs and an anesthesia team. If you get an opportunity to interact with the team taking care of you, confirm with them that they understand what type of surgery you’re having.

Ask about wrong-site surgeries in your hospital  Patients have a right to know what kind of safety record a hospital or surgery center has. Don’t be afraid to ask for this information. Your health is too important to leave to chance. You should also ask about the hospital or surgery center’s credential and accreditation.

Your Legal Rights After a Wrong-Site Surgery

If you believe you have been the victim of a surgery performed on the wrong body part, you may be able to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. Medical mistake lawsuits are complex, and they can involve several possible defendants. In addition to the doctor, patients may be able to sue the nurses and other healthcare professionals who provided care. A patient may also have a case against the hospital or surgery center.

To establish a case for medical malpractice, a patient must be able to prove the basic elements of a claim.

There was a doctor-patient relationship  The patient must be able to show that there was a doctor-patient relationship between the patient and the doctor or healthcare professional who acted negligently. For example, if your neighbor is an orthopedic surgeon and you ask him for some quick advice about your sprained wrist while you’re both getting your mail, you will probably have a difficult time showing that your neighbor was acting as your doctor.

The doctor was negligent  The patient must also be able to prove that the doctor acted negligently while treating the patient. Doctors are held to a higher standard of care than the average person. A patient must be able to show that the doctor deviated from the accepted standard of care for a doctor in the same specialty area.

The negligence caused the injury  The patient must also prove that the doctor’s negligence is the reason the patient was injured. If the patient didn’t suffer any kind of injury due to the doctor’s negligence, the patient’s medical malpractice claim won’t succeed.

The injury caused the patient to suffer damages  The patient must show that the injury resulted in damages, which can include medical bills, lost wages, emotional distress, pain and suffering, and other types of damages.

It’s also important for individuals who have been injured by a doctor to act quickly to protect their legal rights. Most jurisdictions have strict rules for filing a medical malpractice claim, including a short statute of limitations.

A patient may also be required to obtain an affidavit of merit or similar document in which an expert — typically a doctor who practices in the same specialty — states that he or she believes the patient’s doctor deviated from the standard of care. Because medical mistake cases are so complicated, most patients choose to work with an experienced lawyer.      

Sources:

  1. https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/09/doctors-perform-surgery-wrong-body-part-about-40-times-week/323308/
  2. https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/11/28/when-surgeons-cut-the-wrong-body-part/

Contributed by:  

Jonathan C Reiter  – New York City Medical Malpractice Lawyer specializing in medical negligence. To learn more about medical negligence and doctor errors Jonathan C Reiter has prepared a great NYC Medical Malpractice Infographic which you can download to learn more about this topic.

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Prior results cannot and do not guarantee or predict a similar outcome with respect to any future case. Recoveries always depend upon the facts and circumstances of each case, the injuries suffered, damages incurred, and the responsibility of those involved.

Jonathan C. Reiter NYC Injury Lawyer

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