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Experimental Surgeries Lead to Medical Malpractice Cases

Technology is advancing quickly in almost every sector. This is especially true in the medical field, where new medications, procedures and surgeries are leading to more effective treatments. In order for physicians to determine if these new treatments are effective, some level of experimentation is required.

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Medical Malpractice

Many experimental treatments have positive results, and eventually expand to widespread use. Unfortunately, not all medical experiments are successful. Experimental surgeries have led to a variety of complications, such as heart attacks, strokes, brain damage, paralysis, neurological damage or seizures.

Experimental Surgery Leads to Tragic Results

Medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States. A faculty member at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria recently settled a malpractice casefor $30 million, after performing a series of experimental surgeries on a patient. After conducting 24 experimental surgeries on a child who was born with a leak in his esophagus, which a Chicago medical malpractice attorney deemed to be a non-life-threatening condition, an improperly used surgical needle led to a severed pulmonary artery, which resulted in brain damage and cerebral palsy, according to the claim.

Informed Consent

Because of the risks involved, Illinois medical practitioners are legally obligated to make their patients aware of any hazards involved with experimental therapy or treatment, before it is conducted. This is referred to as informed consent. Patients have the legal right to refuse to participate in experimental surgeries or any type of experimental therapy or treatment. If a medical practitioner does not comply with the laws surrounding informed consent, a medical malpractice lawsuit might be warranted.

Even though patients typically sign consent forms designed to protect doctors and medical facilities from liability, they can still be considered negligent. If a patient signs a consent form but the medical practitioner did not properly warn the patient of the risks, or committed some other form of medical malpractice, a lawsuit can result. In most cases, a signature on a hospital or surgery center’s standard consent form is not sufficient proof that a patient was legally informed of any surgical risks. Typically, a special consent for treatment form, outlining each risk in detail, is required.

If a patient is unable to consent, due to mental incapacity or a medical condition which prevents the individual from doing so, the family must consent on the person’s behalf. Ethical medical practitioners will discuss the proposed surgery with the patient and/or the family and allow them to fully participate in the decision making process.

Patients should also be told if any alternative treatments are available to them, outside of experimental medical protocols. Basically, a patient should be well aware of all available options and never be inappropriately persuaded to try an experimental surgery. Medical malpractice lawyers in Chicago can provide guidance when establishing the viability of a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Unauthorized Treatments

One would generally not assume that medication or devices brought in from another country from a friend, that have not been approved by the Federal Food and Drug Administration, would be safe. Just because a treatment is offered by a doctor, does not guarantee that it is safe. If a doctor provides unauthorized surgery, or any medical treatment, and something goes wrong, that doctor might be liable for any harm that was caused.

It is important that medical practitioners always conduct experimental surgeries in an ethical way, taking into consideration the standards and guidelines governing human subjects as research. Patients must be made fully aware of the following considerations:

  • Potential conflict of interest
  • Risks vs. possible gains
  • Results of prior experimental surgeries of the same nature
  • Any safer alternatives, regardless of their potential effectiveness

Medical Malpractice Cases

In Illinois, legal medical malpractice occurs when a doctor, healthcare professional or medical facility breaches a “standard of care” while treating a patient which results in their injury or death. The injured patient must be able to prove that the negligence of a medical professional directly caused their injuries. A patient or family has two years from the date that they became aware that the injury was caused by a medical practitioner to file a lawsuit. These time limits vary slightly for patients under the age of 18, who have up to eight years to file a lawsuit, as long as it is filed before they turn 22.

Damages, or monetary awards, compensate injured parties for any suffering or expenses they incurred because of medical malpractice. This could include medical costs, lost wages and pain and suffering. Illinois has no monetary caps on damages for medical bills, but this law is subject to change. Chicago medical malpractice lawyers analyze the facts of a case and help victims determine its viability.