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Wrong-Site Surgery Occurs 40 Times a Week in the U.S.
Wrong-site surgery is one of the most outrageous and frightening forms of medical malpractice. A doctor might remove the wrong kidney, for example, or even operate on the wrong side of the patient’s brain. According to Anesthesiology News, wrong-site surgery occurs up to 40 times a week in the United States. Reported incidents have increased rapidly in recent years. That being the case, Tampa medical malpractice lawyers are a necessity, not a luxury, whenever this happens.
How It Happens
In many cases the simplest of errors can lead to the most disastrous results. Some of the most common errors that result in wrong-site surgery include:
- The patient is misidentified due to a clerical error and receives surgery intended for another patient.
- A high volume of patients or a shortage of medical staff causes doctors to rush through pre-surgery verification procedures. In particular, surgeons skip the “time out” that is required to re-verify operation details immediately prior to the operation.
- An X-ray is inverted so that the wrong side of the patient’s body is marked for surgery.
The Joint Commission
The Joint Commission is a non-profit organization that accredits over 20,000 health care programs and organizations in the U.S. To reduce the incidence of wrong-site surgery, the Joint Commission now requires the following practices as conditions for accreditation:
- Details of the operation such as the identity of the patient, the surgery to be performed and the site of the incision must be verified prior to surgery.
- The site of the incision must be marked on the patient’s body with a marker.
- Details of the operation must be re-verified immediately prior to surgery.
The imposition of these requirements carries legal consequences in the event of wrong-site surgery. It is easier to prove medical malpractice if it can be shown that the hospital violated specific, codified accreditation standards.
Filing a Lawsuit
In Tampa, medical malpractice lawsuits are governed by Florida state law. The Florida statute of limitations imposes a two-year deadline for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit. This two-year period begins running on the date that the patient discovers (or should have discovered) the malpractice.
Missing the statute of limitations deadline will kill a claim for all practical purposes – even a settlement will become practically impossible. If the patient dies, a surviving spouse and/or dependent children can file a wrongful death lawsuit instead of a personal injury lawsuit. Filing a lawsuit may be necessary even for claims that are eventually settled out of court, because a malpractice lawsuit can pressure a defendant to offer a generous settlement.
Damage awards for wrong-site surgery are often quite high because the consequences to the patient are often harsh. Victims of wrong-site surgery are entitled to compensation for medical expenses, lost work time, out-of-pocket expenses, pain and suffering, mental anguish and sometimes even legal expenses. Florida personal injury law caps non-economic damages such as pain and suffering at $500,000 to $1,000,000 depending on the circumstances. In cases of intentional or gross misconduct, punitive damages of up to $500,000 are available as well.
Although wrong-site surgery almost always constitutes medical malpractice, proving your case in court is the hard part. In particular, to obtain a sufficient verdict or settlement, you have to identify and prove every dime of your damages. If you were the victim of wrong-site surgery in Tampa, you may need to secure experienced legal representation immediately. At Alley, Clark & Greiwe, we are proud of our winning track record in medical malpractice litigation. Call us today at 813-222-0977 or use our online contact form to get in touch with us.