The Hippocratic Oath that all doctors must take states: “First, do no harm.” Physicians are required to take all reasonable precautions in an attempt to avoid any type of preventable error, especially during a surgical procedure. All surgeries have inherent risks and can result in complications irrespective of the skill or accuracy of the surgeon or medical professionals involved.
However, in thousands of cases throughout the United States every year, patients suffer a preventable injury due to a surgeon operating on a wrong body part or the wrong area of the body. These injuries related to wrong-site surgeries are completely avoidable, and an act of pure negligence on the part of a physician, nurse, or another medical professional. If you suffered any injuries related to a wrong-site surgery, you have the right be compensated for your losses, including your additional medical bills, loss of wages and pain & suffering.
What is a Wrong-Site Surgery?
The term “wrong-site surgery” is a broad term that actually encompasses any type of surgery negligently and incorrectly performed on a patient’s wrong body part, wrong area of the body, wrong side of the body, the wrong level of the correct side of the body, or even the wrong patient. No medical specialty is immune to wrong-site surgeries, and evidence of wrong-site surgeries persists in surgeries related to orthopedics, neurosurgery, urology, dental, cardiovascular, ophthalmologic, ear, nose, and throat, and general surgery. While surgeries carry an inherent risk simply due to the nature of the medical procedures, when patients sign consent forms acknowledging those risks, they do not do so with respect to preventable errors such as wrong-site surgeries.
Reasons for Wrong-Site Surgical Errors
There are no excuses for wrong-site surgical errors, as these are completely preventable errors that result in substantial injuries or even death for patients. In an investigation into a medical malpractice claim regarding a wrong-site surgical error, the reason for the wrong-site surgical error may be discovered and include any of the following reasons: doctor fatigue, improper work process, misidentification of the proper surgery site prior to surgery, lack of surgical experience, lack of medical training, poor and inadequate planning by the hospital or medical professionals prior to the surgery, poor communication between surgical staff members, poor equipment or lack of equipment during surgery, operating under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Ultimately, a detailed investigation should determine through evidence, documentation, and witness testimony the true cause of the wrong-site surgical error and what type of negligence caused the resulting injuries and losses to the patient.
Medical malpractice, also known as medical negligence, occurs when any physician, hospital, nurse, anesthesiologist, or another type of medical health care professional causes harm or injury to a patient due to a negligent act or a negligent omission that would be considered by experts to be below the medical standards of care. It is important to note that simply not liking the results of your particular surgery or suffering injuries that are considered to be known risks related to the surgery will not rise to the level of medical malpractice. And, whether or not a given occurrence is malpractice is typically a matter of opinion.
However, if a surgeon operated on the wrong area of your body, this would clearly give rise to a medical malpractice claim. In order to establish a strong medical malpractice claim, a victim must prove that the medical professional (or medical professionals) in some way violated established professional standards of medical practice accepted throughout the medical community.
Res Ipsa Loquitor
The legal doctrine known as “res ipsa loquitor” (Latin for “the thing speaks for itself”) is critical to those victims attempting to receive justice and compensation following their wrong-site surgery. This legal doctrine simply states that if the result received by a patient (in this case wrong-site surgery) would never have happened without some sort of negligence by a medical professional (always the case in wrong-site surgeries), no further proof of negligence is required by the victim. This means that the threshold to prove a medical malpractice case based on wrong-site surgeries is much easier than other forms of medical malpractice as the burden of proof and responsibility completely shifts to the doctor, nurse or another medical professional.
The medical professional now has the burden (instead of the victim) to prove that they were not negligent by operating on the wrong area of a patient’s body, which is a very difficult threshold and burden to meet. This powerful legal doctrine helps victims of medical malpractice ensure that they receive the justice they deserve and are fairly compensated for their injuries and losses.
Medical Malpractice Insurance
In most cases, doctors and other medical practitioners carry medical malpractice insurance so that if they are ever sued for medical malpractice by a patient, they will have the means by which to compensate a victim for losses as a direct result of their negligence, and a legal defense. However, just as other types of insurance companies attempt to defend their client and limit the amount of compensation they pay to victims, medical malpractice insurance is no different. Therefore, it takes a strong medical malpractice claim to ensure that a victim receives just and fair compensation for their injuries and losses.
When a medical professional violates the applicable professional standards, and a patient suffers injury outside what would be considered normal and expected, a patient then has the right to seek appropriate compensation for those injuries and losses. Building a strong medical malpractice claim can be a legally complex endeavor requiring a thorough investigation of the surgery, witness statements, as well as expert medical witness testimony. Consulting an experienced medical malpractice attorney can ensure that your legal rights are protected.
Contact an Experienced Wrong Site Surgery Attorney in San Francisco
If you were injured due to wrong-site surgery, you may have a strong medical malpractice claim against the doctor, nurse, or another medical professional in the hospital. It is important to contact our experienced San Francisco wrong-site surgery lawyers at Callaway & Wolf as soon as possible, as there are statute of limitations (deadlines) that, if missed, prevent a victim from receiving the compensation they deserve.