An operation always has a measure of risk involved. This risk includes complications during the procedure and the possibility of surgical errors, which puts patients’ lives in danger. In Chicago and throughout the United States, medical malpractice causes numerous hardships for patients who are impacted.
During a typical procedure, dozens of surgical sponges are placed inside of a patient’s body to soak up fluids. Upon conclusion of the operation, they resemble surrounding tissue, which creates a challenge for surgical staff who depend on manual counting methods to remove all of the sponges. Because these methods are prone to human error, many medical malpractice cases involve retained surgical sponge mistakes.
Identifying the error
According to an article in USA Today, medical errors involving surgical sponge retention often take place over a dozen times per day throughout the country. These errors are referred to as never-events because they are simply not supposed to happen. Government statistics do not reveal the accurate prevalence of retained sponges, but it is believed that they affect thousands of people each year. When doctors leave these sponges in patients, the patients could remain unaware of their presence for months, or even years.
After leaving an Alabama hospital in 2010, one woman suffered from complications following a cesarean section. Her stomach grew over the next several weeks and her bowels stopped functioning altogether. Her doctor told her to go to the emergency room right away.
The consequences of retained sponges
X-rays revealed that the woman had a large surgical sponge in her abdomen, prompting an emergency surgery and a lengthy hospital stay. For this woman, her symptoms appeared relatively quickly but this is not always the case. People who struggle with retained sponges (whether they are aware of it or not) may experience a variety of health problems, such as:
Some patients are unable to survive the serious setbacks that retained sponges cause while others may struggle with these setbacks for the rest of their lives. One man in Florida will always have to wear a waste pouch due to an infection caused by retained surgical sponges and the removal of part of his intestine.
Other complications can also arise from retained surgical sponge errors, especially financial difficulties. Hospitalizations for retained sponges typically cost over $60,000, according to Medicare and this can be a large burden for victims and their families to bear. If someone is pursuing medical malpractice damages, they should thoroughly evaluate the details of their situation with an experienced attorney.
Although most people go to hospitals expecting to receive attentive and expert medical care, statistics indicate the opposite can often happen. According to a study published in the Journal of Patient Safety in 2013, every year as many as 440,000 patients fall victim to needless mistakes that contribute to their deaths. Among the numerous errors that constitute medical malpractice, misdiagnoses are one of the more common and dangerous.
A study published in BMJ Quality & Safety surveyed over 350,000 claims in the U.S. made over a 25-year period. The study revealed that more medical malpractice payouts were made for misdiagnoses than anything else. These errors represented 35 percent of all payouts and were the top cause of death or disability. The researchers who conducted the study estimate such errors disable or kill 160,000 people a year. These errors most commonly occur when patients are in the hospital but are more likely to fatally injure discharged patients.
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association surveyed 538 cases and found 28 percent of misdiagnoses were serious, while the rest were moderate or minor. The most common missed or late diagnoses were for pulmonary embolism, reactions to drugs, acute coronary syndrome, stroke, lung cancer, breast cancer and colorectal cancer. All of these conditions are either medical emergencies or illnesses that usually must be detected early to be treated successfully.
An incorrect diagnosis that a medical professional reasonably should not have made constitutes malpractice. In Illinois, victims of malpractice must make a claim within two years of the date of injury or discovery of the injury. To establish negligence, an expert witness must testify on behalf of the victim to show that the medical professional failed to provide a reasonable professional standard of care. Illinois law requires expert witnesses to practice the same specialty of medicine as the professional being charged.
A person does not need to have an illness and experience health complications to seek damages for a misdiagnosis. False positive diagnoses can still be dangerous, as they can cause patients to undergo unnecessary invasive procedures. In 2012, one Illinois woman filed a malpractice lawsuit after her physician misdiagnosed a benign tumor as breast cancer. The women underwent an unnecessary procedure, exposing herself to the dangers inherent to any surgery, in addition to considerable expenses and emotional suffering.
Damages in a medical malpractice lawsuit may reimburse expenses such as cost of care and medical bills. Malpractice victims may also seek non-economic damages for pain and suffering, disfigurement, changes in quality of life and future expenses. After a 2010 Illinois Supreme Court ruling, non-economic damages are no longer limited under state law.