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Errors in Surgery: From Stitches to Sponges

Error SurgeryEveryone makes mistakes, even educated and knowledgeable medical professionals. However, some mistakes are so bad that they rise to the level of negligence or indifference. In the medical field, this can (but does not always) lead to a malpractice suit. One of the most common incidences of medical mistake is that of errors in surgery. While surgery is a complex, exacting endeavor, there are certain mistakes that actively endanger a patient’s well-being.

Types of Potentially Actionable Surgical Errors

Anything from a minor nick with a surgical blade to a full-blown infection can occur in surgery. However, special attention is paid to what are called "never events," which are surgical errors that are serious, preventable and important to the public to inform general perception about accountability and liability. The possibility is markedly higher that a never event could plausibly be negligent than could a run of the mill injury or mistake.

Examples of the most common never events include:

  • Incomplete or insufficient monitoring of the patient;
  • Operating on the wrong site, such as removing the wrong limb or internal organ;
  • Damaging nerves or blood vessels, whether or not adverse effects result;
  • Leaving objects like sponges or scissors in a patient;
  • Transmitting infection or disease via blood or organ for transplant; and
  • Performing a more in-depth procedure than was consented to by the patient.

Any of these events can be used as reasonable evidence toward the assumption that the medical professional breached their duty of care.

What is the Medical Standard of Care?

In California, medical professionals are held to a certain standard of care, namely that they are to be held negligent if they “fail to use the same level of skill and care” in diagnosis and treatment as would a reasonable medical professional of similar age, ability and experience. While there are parts of this standard that can be seen as subjective, it does provide an appropriate benchmark by which to judge medical conduct, because without accepting this subjectivity, there would be too many variables for which to account.

During a difficult and exacting procedure, as most surgeries are, any mistake committed will almost always be preventable, and it is preventable mistakes that are the easiest to label as negligent. Negligence is an absence of care, in a colloquial sense, which ties into the legal definition as well. If a patient reacts badly, for example, to anesthetic when they have no history of allergies, that is not avoidable - if a surgeon amputates the wrong limb, that is eminently avoidable, as one might imagine. It is important to note that this is not the only criteria - if you are not sufficiently harmed by your doctor’s mistake, it is generally not actionable - but if the mistake is preventable, it is a step toward such a finding.

Ask an Attorney for Help

If your surgery has created more problems than it solved, you may want to consult an experienced medical malpractice lawyer. The dedicated San Jose surgical error attorneys at Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard, L.L.P. understand the feelings of anger and fear you are feeling, and we will do our best to ensure that you are justly compensated for what you have been through. We serve San Jose, the Bay Area, and the counties of Alameda, Monterey, San Benito, Santa Clara, and San Mateo.

Client Reviews
My experience with Attorney Brad Corsiglia during my recent medical malpractice case was nothing short of amazing given the very stressful circumstances. I was fortunate to find Brad highly recommended from a mutual contact and from the very beginning of the process, Brad was truly engaged and knowledgeable in understanding my case and providing input on what avenues were available to me. Michelle M.