While any reasonably preventable surgical error is unacceptable, some are more dangerous than others. One of the most frightening occurs when the surgeon accidentally cuts a hole in the patient’s intestines and fails to fix the tear or even notice it.
Surgical error leads to patient’s death
A recent jury verdict in a case from outside of Maryland gives us an example of the tragedies this type of surgical error can cause. The jury awarded $3 million to the family of the woman, who died just days after undergoing surgery to remove a mass from her pelvic region. Jurors found that the surgeon who operated caused the patient’s death by cutting a hole in her small intestine and failing to repair the damage.
The lawsuit alleged that the surgeon nicked the patient’s small intestine during the procedure, causing a perforation to form. This is a known risk of the procedure, according to the suit, which was filed by the administrator of the woman’s estate and her adult children. Despite this, the surgeon failed to do a reasonably thorough examination of the woman’s intestine before closing. If he had, he likely would have discovered the wound and repaired it, the lawsuit charged.
ER doctors accused of dismissing patient’s symptoms
The hospital sent the patient home two hours after surgery. She returned 12 hours later with severe abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. This was caused by feces leaking out of her small intestine into her body cavity, but emergency room doctors dismissed her concerns and mistook the IV needle marks on her arms from the surgery for track marks caused by injectable drug abuse. They sent the woman home without examining her bowels.
The family called the hospital several times over the last few days of the woman’s life, but she never received further treatment. She was 42 when she died.
This sad case shows how doctors and hospitals can compound their mistakes by not double-checking their work and refusing to take responsibility when a patient is suffering.