Few medical errors are as vivid and frightening as those that involve surgical procedures where patients have undergone surgery on the wrong body part or have undergone an incorrect procedure. These types of surgical errors commonly termed as “wrong-site” or “wrong-procedure” errors are mistakes that should never occur, and are often indicative of serious underlying safety problems.
Wrong-site surgery may involve operating on the wrong side, or the incorrect body site. There are several examples in the news of these types of horrific mistakes occurring at medical facilities in West Virginia and nationwide. If you or a loved one has undergone wrong-site surgery, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the medical professional, hospital, and other potential parties who were responsible for the surgical error. An experienced Morgantown medical malpractice attorney will be able to advise victims and their families about their legal rights and options.
How Prevalent is Wrong-Site Surgery?
According to The Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare’s wrong-site surgery project, there were 463 incidents of wrong-site surgeries voluntarily reported to the center’s database from Jan. 1, 2010 through Dec. 31, 2013. The national incidence of this type of medical malpractice, not only in operating rooms but also in many other settings in hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers (radiology and cardiology departments), is estimated to be much higher – perhaps as often as 50 incidents per week in the United States.
A group of eight hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers that joined this project identified 29 main causes of wrong-site surgeries, ranging from scheduling processes to operating-room procedures to organizational culture.
Lack of systems and controls: One of the most common reasons why wrong-site surgeries occur is the lack of institutional controls or a formal system to verify the correct site of the surgery. This typically includes a checklist to make sure all steps were performed in the right order. Wrong-site surgeries can also occur when certain surgical team members are excluded or when the surgeon is the only person who is relied on for determining the correct surgical site. Surgeons and/or a member of the team should also clearly mark the correct operation site. When this is not done correctly, there is the risk of wrong-site surgery.
Time pressures: In some cases, unusual time pressures such as unplanned emergencies or a large volume of procedures, can also cause mix-ups. There may be pressures in these situations to reduce preoperative preparation time.
Lack of training: The medical team must be properly credentialed and have the necessary competencies to perform the surgical procedures. All team members should have received up-to-date training necessary to perform these procedures. Sometimes, hospitals may be understaffed and therefore, may not have enough people on the surgical team to keep track of all the details.
Miscommunication: When there is miscommunication or lack of proper communication among members of the medical team, there is a heightened risk of wrong-site surgery. Things can also go wrong when the medical team fails to include the patient and family or significant others when identifying the correct site. Incomplete or inaccurate communication among members of the surgical team can also become problematic.
What Are Your Legal Rights?
If you believe that you have been the victim of surgery performed on the wrong body part, you may be able to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the surgeon, the hospital, and other responsible parties. It is important to remember that lawsuits involving medical errors are complex and could involve several possible defendants. In addition to the surgeon, patients may be able to sue other members of the medical team who provided care. A patient may also have a case against the hospital or clinic where the surgery took place.
In order to establish a case for medical malpractice, a plaintiff must be able to prove the four basic elements of a medical negligence claim:
Doctor-patient relationship: The plaintiff must be able to show that a doctor-patient relationship existed between the patient and the surgeon or the medical professional who acted in a negligent manner. In order to prove this, a patient may be able to show documentation such as medical records and doctor’s notes to prove that a doctor-patient relationship existed.
Negligence: The patient must also be able to prove the doctor acted negligently while treating the patient. Doctors are held to a certain standard of care and the plaintiff must be able to show that the doctor deviated from the accepted standard of care for a medical professional in the same specialty area.
Injury: The plaintiff must show that the medical professional’s negligence or carelessness caused an injury. There must be a direct link between the doctor’s negligence and the patient’s injury. For example, if the patient did not suffer any type of injury as a result of the doctor’s negligence, there is no medical malpractice claim.
Damages: Finally, the patient must show evidence that the injury caused him or her to sustain damages. Such damages may include medical bills, lost wages, emotional distress, pain and suffering, and other types of damages.
Filing a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit in West Virginia
If you or a loved one has been a victim of medical negligence or has been the victim of wrong-site surgery, it is imperative that you contact an experienced Morgantown West Virginia medical malpractice lawyer who can provide you with more information about pursuing your legal rights.
If you have been the victim of surgical malpractice at hospitals such as Ruby Memorial Hospital, Monongalia General (Mon General) Hospital, Mon Health Systems WVU University Health Associates, or private clinics in West Virginia, the knowledgeable medical malpractice lawyers at the Robinette Legal Group PLLC can help you receive maximum compensation for damages such as medical expenses, lost income, cost of additional surgery, hospitalization, permanent injuries, pain and suffering, and emotional distress. Contact us at 304-594-1800 to find out how we can help you.