Wrong site surgery is a medical error that should never happen. It is not a medical risk that the patient must accept. Legally, it qualifies under the principle of res ipsa loquitur, under which the surgeon and hospital would be presumed negligent, meaning in a lawsuit against the surgeon and hospital, the law is on the patient’s side.
Attorney Fred Pritzker discusses one of his malpractice cases:
The first medical malpractice case I ever handled – over thirty years ago – involved an orthopedic surgeon operating on the wrong knee of his patient, later my client.
My client was a professional karate instructor who injured his knee during an exhibition match. He consulted with a local physician who first saw him in his office and later performed surgery at a nearby hospital. The client awoke from surgery to find that both knees had been operated on. The physician admitted that after surgically entering the [wrong] knee capsule, he found nothing amiss. Puzzled, he rechecked his notes and realized he operated on the wrong knee. He then surgically repaired the injured knee.
Over the intervening years, I’ve handled a number of so-called wrong surgical site cases. It never ceases to amaze me that something so preventable – just looking at the records – happens so often.
In prosecuting surgeon malpractice cases, lawyers rely on a number of legal theories of recovery including medical negligence, lack of informed consent and battery. Damages are recoverable for pain, suffering, emotional distress, disfigurement, loss of earnings (and of earning capacity) and medical expenses. In appropriate cases, punitive damages are sought as well.
The consequences of these cases are often quite severe. Amputations, infection and severe disfigurement are known to occur in these surgery cases.
The areas of the body where this may happen include the following:
- periperal vasular
- abdominal cavity
- peripheral nerve
If you have been the victim of a malpractice, you may have claims against the hospital and the surgeon for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, emotional distress and other damages.