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Can Surgical Complications be Grounds for Medical Malpractice

Just because you develop a complication after a surgical procedure, it does not necessarily mean there was wrongdoing. Many patients who develop complications after surgical procedures think that since they have developed these complications, something must have gone wrong or something must have been done wrong.

However, this may not necessarily be the case. This is because, with every surgical procedure there are inherent risks that can occur. Just because you develop one or more of those risks, it does not mean there was any wrongdoing.

Was there Wrongdoing

Typically, in surgical cases, the wrongdoing occurs when the doctor or hospital fails to recognize that an injury has occurred. For instance, the patient undergoes a surgical procedure on his belly, and a bowel perforation occurs during the procedure, which the doctor does not recognize. Due to the perforation, the patient can become very sick within the next few days after the surgery. Unless the perforation is recognized and treated in a timely manner, there is significant chance of the patient getting worse, and possibly even dying. However, the reality is that just because a patient develops a problem or complication, it does not necessarily mean that there was any wrongdoing.

Doctors will tell you that just because you have developed a complication, it does not mean that there was any mistake at all made by the medical team. Many people immediately have automatic reaction to complications and do not believe they could be suffering such a problem after a surgery. However, many times, it is not the fact of the injury occurring, but rather the failure to diagnose and treat that condition in a timely manner, which rises to the level of departure from good and accepted medical care.

Difference between Risks and Negligence

Therefore, it is vital to know the difference between the risks associated with the surgery and mistake or negligence that can be termed as medical malpractice. Here is a practical example that illustrates this point. In a surgical procedure called thyroidectomy, the laryngeal nerve could be damaged that might result in permanent hoarseness.

If the surgeon is unable to find this nerve and damages it, then it will be a case of negligence, which will be grounds for a medical malpractice case. However, if he finds it and does not injure it, but the blood supply to the nerve is cut off resulting in palsy, then such an occurrence is a known risk and therefore such a complication arising out of the surgery cannot be taken as medical malpractice.

Surgical Complications arising out of Negligence

Some of the surgical complications arising out of the following mistakes can be grounds for medical malpractice case:

· Forgetting a foreign object such as a surgical instrument inside the body of the patient

· Removing an organ that did not need removal

· Performing surgery on the wrong side of the body

· Performing the wrong surgery due to mix up of patient records

· Tears, perforations, or lacerations to other healthy parts of the body while performing the surgery

Surgical complications arising from such instances are not known risks associated with the surgery, and are due to negligence of the doctor or a hospital.

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