Surgery is inherently risky.
Even with all our medical advances, negative outcomes are still possible and there is no guarantee that a patient will improve once wheeled out of the operating room.
Sometimes, a patient needs multiple surgeries when only one was expected, which can take a toll on a patient’s health.
However, it is also true that surgeons sometimes make mistakes. Surgical errors can cause devastating consequences, including death, while others will need multiple painful corrective surgeries to try and undo the damage caused by the first surgeon.
At our firm, our lawyers field many questions from the public, one of which is, “Can you sue a doctor for failed surgery?” The answer is generally “yes,” but the public needs to be aware of what is involved in bringing this type of medical malpractice lawsuit.
Identifying the Surgical Error
To bring a malpractice case, you will need to identify some mistake that violates the accepted standard of care. It is not enough that you did not completely improve after surgery. For example, a doctor might have operated to remove a tumor.
If the tumor shows up 9 months later in a different location, this does not necessarily mean the doctor failed to perform the surgery properly. The tumor might have already metastasized by the time surgery was performed.
There are some common errors that happen in surgery:
- Implements left inside. For example, a surgeon might leave a sponge inside a patient, which requires another surgery to remove.
- Wrong-site surgery. The surgeon performs the operation on the wrong body part. For example, a patient getting her left breast removed might have her right one removed instead.
- Wrong patient surgery. A doctor might perform a procedure that was intended for another patient.
- Negligent performance. A doctor might nick or damage healthy organs while performing surgery, or otherwise bungle the operation. This type of negligence can endanger the patient’s health, especially when the surgeon does not recognize his error in the operating room.
- Anesthesia errors. Many things can go wrong with anesthesia, including receiving too little or too much. Patients can also be injured when inserting a tube into the trachea.
- Lack of informed consent. A doctor needs to explain the surgery to you, discuss the risks, and explain alternatives, including skipping surgery. Without this information, patients cannot make an informed decision to undergo an operation.
For help identifying the error, you can meet with a malpractice attorney to review your medical records.
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Determining the Correct Standard of Care
New Jersey’s medical malpractice law does not require surgeons to be perfect.
Instead, a surgeon must follow the correct standard of care. Often, it is not clear whether a doctor used sufficient skill in the operating room, so meeting with an attorney is key.
At our firm, we have developed relationships with expert witnesses who are current or retired doctors. They can analyze the circumstances and decide whether the doctor performed with sufficient care or whether the doctor was negligent. This testimony is often vital to bringing a successful claim.
Proving Causation & Damages
Even if a doctor was careless, a patient still must show that the surgeon’s failure to follow the proper standard of care actually caused injury. Imagine that a doctor failed to remove all of a tumor due to negligence, but the patient ends up dying a few months later of a heart attack.
Has the doctor’s negligence contributed or caused the patient’s death? Did the patient suffer any damages because of botched cancer surgery?
If not, then a patient does not have a medical malpractice case and cannot sue for compensation. A medical expert can help establish whether the surgical error caused any injury to the patient.
Schedule Your Free Consultation
The answer to the question “Can you sue for surgery complications?” is itself difficult to answer. For help in this matter, please contact O’Connor, Parsons, Lane & Noble, LLC, today. One of our attorneys can meet with you at a convenient time for a free consultation.