There are few situations as scary as waking up after surgery and realizing that an error occurred during that surgery. Some errors, such as damaged nerves, might be immediately recognized once you awake (or the medical team might know about them before you even awake). Other errors, like having left a surgical instrument in the operating site, might become obvious during the healing process. When your surgeon makes an error, it is often fairly easy to file a medical malpractice case. However, part of that case hinges on establishing the reason why the surgical errors arose. Your lawyer will work with you to determine the reasons why the error occurred. Here's a look at four common contributors to surgical errors and how each one might affect your case.
Incompetence/Lack of Experience
It's possible that your surgeon was not as experienced in the particular surgery that you underwent as he or she should have been. If your lawyer can find that the surgeon has only performed the surgery you had a few times (or not at all) it can be argued that he or she was not experienced enough to be performing the surgery alone and that the lack of experience contributed to your injury. Similarly, if it is found that the surgeon has a long track record of similar errors, it can be argued that he or she is incompetent. In this case, you may be able to make a claim against the hospital as well as the surgeon if the hospital was aware of this incompetence and allowed the doctor to have staff privileges anyways.
Insufficient Pre-Surgical Planning
Surgeons need to be well prepared for a surgery. This includes having a game plan should any complications arise during the procedure. If it can be shown that your surgeon did not prepare properly for the surgery, then this could be cited as the cause for your surgical error -- and you'd have a strong malpractice case.
Cases of this nature often depend on the testimony of others who were in the operating room at the time of the procedure. If your lawyer feels that a lack of preparation contributed to your injuries, he or she can subpoena a testimony from anyone who was in the operating room at the time. For instance, a nurse who was assisting with your surgery might testify that the proper equipment was not in the room and that this contributed to the error, or that the surgeon did not know what to do when a complication arose that should have been planned for.
Was your surgeon operating on little sleep or still working after having already worked for 10 hours that day? Fatigue contributes to many surgical errors, and if you can prove that your surgeon was fatigued, you'll have a pretty strong medical malpractice case. Your lawyer can request hospital records to determine how long the surgeon had been working before operating on you. Testimonies from others in the hospital can help verify that the surgeon came in groggy or seemed overly fatigued during the procedure.
Sometimes, surgeons are just not as cautious as they could be. They might skip a step like sterilizing a certain instrument or stitching a certain layer of tissue. They might forget to count and take roll of instruments after the procedure to ensure none were left behind in the surgical site. Neglect as a cause of surgical error can be tough to prove. Often, this type of case will hinge on testimonies of other surgeons who can testify that your injuries could only have resulted from the surgeon failing to follow due protocol during a procedure. Evidence may also be gathered from others who were in the operating room and can testify that certain steps were skipped.
It's important to remember that the information above is just a broad overview of some of the things that can contribute to surgical errors that are considered malpractice. Filing a medical malpractice case is very complex, and each one is different. Speak with medical malpractice lawyers as soon as possible if you feel you've been the victim of a surgical error. They'll get to the bottom of what caused your surgical error and determine whether or not you have a case.