A surgical error is any preventable mistake that a surgeon makes during surgery and, as such, they are a major cause of medical malpractice lawsuits. Experts estimate that that surgeons commit over 4,000 preventable mistakes every year, which cost the medical industry more than $1.3 billion in malpractice payouts. But what exactly is a “surgical error”? Some of the most common situations that fall into that category of medical malpractice include:
- Injuring nerves during surgery
- Administering too much or too little anesthesia
- Performing an incision at the wrong location
- Leaving a piece of equipment inside a patient
- Operating on the wrong body part
- Operating on the wrong patient
Some of these errors are more serious than others and, in some cases, can cause severe injuries.
What Causes Surgical Errors?
Doctors are accomplished professionals who have undergone many years of education and training to get to the point where they are able to perform surgery. So why is it that they make mistakes so often? Some of the most common causes of surgical errors include:
- Fatigue: Doctors who work long shifts can be fatigued when they are performing a surgical operation, which makes them more likely to make a mistake
- Lack of expertise: Surgical errors can be caused by physicians who have not performed the particular type of surgery many times or lacks the skills to perform the surgery successfully.
- Insufficient preoperative planning: Before performing a surgical operation, the surgeon should review and prepare for any complications that are likely to occur. The nurses and assistants should also ensure that all of the necessary equipment is ready and available when the surgeon needs it. A breakdown anywhere in planning process can result in a surgical error.
- Poor communication: Communication between the patient, the surgeons, and the nurses and assistants is critical to ensuring that a surgery runs smoothly. A breakdown in communication at any point can result in a number of serious consequences.
- Distraction: Sometimes, surgeons just aren’t as careful as they should be, and this is often the result of distraction. A distracted surgeon can make a number of mistakes, including using the wrong instrument, injuring the patient during surgery, or leaving a piece of equipment inside the patient.
Liability for Surgical Errors
Just because a surgeon makes a mistake does not mean that he has committed medical malpractice. In order to establish liability, the plaintiff must show that the surgeon’s behavior fell below the medical standard of care and that they were harmed by the error. For example, assume that a surgeon leaves a small towel inside a patient after surgery, but the patient never notices it or suffers any ill effects because of it. In this case, the doctor’s behavior fell below the medical standard of care, but the patient was not harmed. Thus, there would be no medical malpractice liability against the surgeon. However, assume that another surgeon accidentally amputates a patient’s right arm when he was supposed to amputate the left arm. In that case, the surgeon’s behavior has fallen below the medical standard of care and the patient has suffered harm, which would enable the patient to bring a medical malpractice claim against the surgeon.
Contact an Atlanta Medical Malpractice Attorney
If you have suffered an injury as a result of a surgical error, you may be entitled to compensation through a medical malpractice claim. Contact the attorneys at Slappey & Sadd for a free consultation to discuss your case by calling 404.255.6677. We serve the entire state of Georgia, including the following locations: Augusta, Lagrange, and Rossville.