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Surgical Errors

Whether it’s a routine procedure or the most complex of neurosurgeries, there is always a risk when you undergo an operation. However experienced a surgeon is, however many of these procedures (s)he has completed, and however straight-forward the steps are in the operation, there is always a chance something does not go as planned.

Medical research and advances in technology have made many types of surgery much safer than they would have been in the past. Moreover, medical professionals are trained to expect the unexpected and they should be prepared to handle many kinds of complications. Nevertheless, sometimes errors during a surgery can cause serious harm or even death to a patient.

In some cases, surgeons did the best they could under the circumstances, followed best practices, and adhered to the requisite standard of care. But in other cases a surgical error was made due to acts or omissions that breached the standard of care, in other words due to negligence. If you or a loved one suffered harm from a surgical error and you believe a medical provider’s negligent action or inaction caused or contributed to this harm, you may be able to seek compensation for your losses.

How do surgical errors occur?

Common surgical errors.

  • Perforation or laceration of organs - When surgery is being performed, if a surgeon is careless they may unintentionally damage surrounding organs and tissue. For example, a perforated bowel can introduce harmful bacteria into the abdominal cavity that may cause sepsis. Laceration of organs such as the colon or bladder can cause excessive bleeding, blood clots, and possibly result in pulmonary embolisms.
  • Unnecessary or inappropriate surgeries - If a surgery is not in the patient’s best interest, or not needed entirely. Surgeries that are frequently not necessary include: hysterectomies, joint replacements, Cesarean sections, gallbladder removal, angioplasty, spinal surgery and tonsillectomies.
  • Anesthesia errors - An improper dosage based on the patient’s body type or known allergic reactions can be catastrophic. Too much anesthesia can result in oxygen deprivation, while too little could cause a patient to wake up during surgery and experience incredible pain. Anesthesia errors are the most likely surgical error to result in death. 
  • Wrong patient/wrong body part surgery - If there is miscommunication between medical staff, or if the protocols in place to verify the correct surgical procedure and site of surgery are poor, these mistakes can result in surgery that significantly harms a patient. Cases of surgeons removing healthy organs or amputating the wrong limb have occurred.
  • Foreign objects left in the body - Surgical materials and tools used during a procedure must always be accounted for. If surgical sponges, gauze, clamps, clips or scalpels are left in the body cavity after surgery, serious infections, scarring or other injuries can occur.
  • Infections - Surgical site infections occur in two to four percent of all patients. While these can occur from other surgical errors (foreign objects left in the body), surgeons must take into account other patient risk factors such as age, diabetes and tobacco use, and whether improperly sanitized instruments have caused bacterial contamination.
  • Pre-operative or postoperative mistakes - Improperly prescribed pre-operative medications, failure to address surgical complications, and poor communication with patients about exertion or cleaning surgical wounds after surgery, can all cause serious injuries.

Why do these surgical errors happen?

Any surgeon can make medical error, but certain factors increase this likelihood. They include:

  • Fatigue - doctors and nurses work notoriously long hours and fatigue can be compounded by consecutive days of being on call or scheduled shifts. Errors are far more frequent when a person is tired.
  • Incompetence - if a surgeon is inexperienced, has not performed a procedure often or has neglected to keep current with best practices for a surgery type, they may not have adequate skill to complete the surgery successfully. 
  • Miscommunication or poor communication - communication errors can occur at any time from the planning involved for the surgery to follow-up care instructions.
  • Poor planning - if a surgeon does not carefully analyze the patient’s medical charts and medical history prior to the procedure, preventable complications could occur. The surgeon must also ensure that all tools needed or potentially needed are accessible, in good working order and sterilized.
  • Being under the influence of drugs/alcohol - surgeons have a stressful job. Sadly, some surgeons may use drugs or alcohol to deal with this stress. It is rare for a medical professional to be inebriated or on drugs that affect their abilities, but it can happen and could result in errors or negligence.
  • Environmental factors - if the surgery was conducted in a busy emergency room or loud music was playing and the surgeon lost concentration, it could contribute to a surgical error.

Discovering a surgical error.

Some surgical errors will be immediately obvious. A wrong patient surgery, most wrong body part surgeries and many other serious errors will either be apparent or reported to the patient or the patient’s loved ones after they occur. 

Other errors may not be identified for some time. For example, if a foreign object is left in the body cavity, the resulting infection or scarring may take weeks or months to become symptomatic.

If the surgeon or another member of the medical team realizes they have made an error, they should make an appropriate note in the patient’s chart and notify the patient or their loved ones. Unfortunately, when admitting an error opens up a medical provider to liability, there can be temptation to be less than forthcoming.

When a surgical error happens to you or a loved one.

Surgeries are supposed to fix medical problems, not cause them or lead to even worse outcomes. Learning that you or a loved one has experienced a surgical error that has resulted in harm or losses is troubling enough on its own. But if that error was caused by a medical provider’s negligent actions or inaction, it adds insult to injury.

Surgical errors from medical malpractice lead to pain, suffering, corrective or remedial surgeries, disability, and potentially a shortened lifespan or death. Victims of these errors deserve compensation for:

  • Loss of enjoyment of life.
  • Loss of past and future income.
  • Medical expenses and attendant care.
  • Other expenses incurred from disruption in your life.

Gluckstein’s surgical error medical malpractice team is highly motivated to help you access this compensation and achieve a sense of justice when you’ve been wronged.

Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers can help.

Filing a medical malpractice lawsuit can seem daunting at a time when you may already be overwhelmed by the effect of the surgical error on your life. When you contact one of our experienced, knowledgeable and skilled surgical error medical malpractice lawyers, you will soon learn that you are not alone on this journey.

Ranked as one of the country’s top personal injury law firms, we have a solid track record of getting results for our clients. Respected by our peers in the legal field and highly recommended by clients we’ve served, the Gluckstein medical negligence lawyer team has what it takes to represent you and your best interests in these challenging and complex cases and can help you get compensation for surgical errors.

When you contact a member of our team for a no cost, no obligation consultation, we will listen with interest and empathy as you explain what’s happened to you or a loved one. As we explain your rights and various options, we take time to ensure you understand and feel comfortable making an informed choice about how to proceed.

If you choose to pursue a claim with us, we will begin a preliminary investigation of your medical charts and consult with independent experts in the medical field to determine if standards of care were breached by physician error and caused your injuries. While we work on your case, one of our client liaisons we help to keep you informed about the process. These liaisons, some of whom have experienced serious personal injuries within their own families, are part of what makes our firm different.

A commitment to full-circle care.

Gluckstein’s commitment to full circle care means we want to be there for you as you work towards a sense of closure for what has happened, and work towards a future where you can live your best life possible. We care about you and your life beyond the time we spend on your legal case.

Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers shows compassion and kindness to our clients all the while being fierce advocates for them in the courtroom. Trust a firm that always sees you as more than just a case. Contact us today to discuss how our Ontario medical malpractice lawyers may be able to help with your surgical error claim.

Ontario Surgical Errors and Medical Malpractice Lawyers.



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