When it comes to emergency surgeries, often the patient doesn't have much of a choice; by its very definition, an emergency prompted the need for the surgery, which was intended to be lifesaving. Your loved one may have been in so much pain or so overwhelmed that he or she agreed to whatever procedure the doctors or hospital staff recommended at the time. You and your loved one trusted in the doctor to perform the emergency surgery and keep him or her safe.
Unfortunately, not everything went as the doctors led you to believe it should. While every surgery has risks, recent studies suggest that medical errors kill more people than car accidents. In fact, medical mistakes are the third leading cause of death in the United States and kill over 250,000 people annually. All that matters to you now, though, is that you must mourn the unexpected loss of your loved one due to a mistake made by a professional you trusted to take care of him or her.
How does this happen?
There's a reason surgeons make the big bucks. Supposedly, they become highly trained and skilled professionals through their education and hands-on training. They need these skills because one small slip or mistake during a surgery could lead to massive internal injuries, serious infections and a variety of other fatal complications that all have the same devastating result: Death.
While a surgical error might happen for a number of reasons, some of the most common include:
- Insufficient patient monitoring
- Poor planning before the operation
- Poor communication amongst hospital staff
- Surgeon fatigue
- Alcohol or drug use by the surgeon
- Failure to keep track of sponges or surgical equipment during the operation
What goes wrong?
Surgical errors occur in a variety of ways and come in many forms, but some of the more frequent occurrences include:
- Administering the wrong amount of anesthesia
- Damaging a nerve
- Leaving a piece of surgical equipment (such as a sponge) inside the patient
- Making the incision in the wrong place
- Performing surgery on the wrong body part
- Operating on the wrong patient
Is emergency surgery more dangerous than regular surgical procedures?
JAMA Surgery published a study in 2016 that showed an alarming pattern. Researchers analyzed the medical records of over 400,000 patients and found a whopping 80 percent of all complications and deaths from emergency surgeries occurred in relation to a mere seven procedures:
- Small-bowel resection
- Gallbladder removal
- Removal of part of the colon
- Removal of abdominal adhesions
- Peptic ulcer disease operation
- Any operations that involve opening the abdomen
Hopefully, the results of this study will help make changes that ultimately save lives.
Can medical professionals be held accountable for their mistakes?
Surgical errors can be catastrophic. If you were the one who underwent surgery and were lucky enough to survive, extensive future medical treatment might be necessary, you might have chronic pain due to the mistake or you might permanently suffer any of a vast variety of other physical or even cognitive health problems. Losing a loved one presents a different set of challenges, but the devastation of a surgical error still has its impact.
Whether you or your loved one paid the price for a surgeon's mistake, you could receive compensation, whether to help with the necessary ongoing physical therapy or future surgeries, or for non-economic losses. Unfortunately, proving medical malpractice claims presents numerous challenges. The knowledge and expertise of an experienced Arizona medical malpractice attorney could prove invaluable. A lawyer with in-depth legal knowledge as well as experience in medical claims could fight vigorously on your behalf.