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Seattle Surgical Malpractice Lawyers

Negligence During Surgery

All surgery comes with risks. And even the most routine procedures can go poorly when a surgical team makes mistakes. Surgical malpractice is when a surgeon, anesthesiologist, surgical nurse, or other medical staff injures a patient through an act of negligence. These medical professionals who cause injury or illness to their patients can be held accountable for their actions.

The experienced Seattle medical malpractice lawyers at Pendergast Law, have the knowledge and the resources to handle serious cases involving surgical errors. We understand the physical, emotional, and financial toll such situations can take on patients and their family members. Call us to find out how we can help you.

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Preoperative Negligence

As patients, we all place a great deal of faith and trust in our medical professionals. When a medical professional recommends a surgical procedure, most patients comply even if they have reservations about the safety of the procedure. Patients believe that the doctor is going to follow protocol and perform all necessary tests prior to the surgery. These tests are used to verify that the patient is a good candidate for the surgery, and that there are no other underlying health issues or concerns that could become complications during surgery.

Some examples of these preoperative test include:

  • Blood work
  • X-ray
  • MRI or CT scan
  • EKG
  • Urinalysis
  • Determination of any sensitivity to certain products used during surgery such as latex, medications, or anesthesia

When a doctor fails to request these preoperative tests or fails to evaluate the patient to ensure he or she is fit for surgery, this can constitute medical negligence and can result in a serious injury or death.

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Failure to Prepare the Patient for Surgery

The time prior to the surgery, when the patient is admitted to the hospital and is in the care of the medical staff, is also important. During this preoperative time, medical staff is tasked with monitoring vital signs, confirming preexisting conditions, and disinfecting the site of the surgery. For surgery on an extremity, a medical professional will also mark the correct limb to be operated on. Failing to complete any of these tasks can result in a life-threatening emergency during surgery, or surgery being performed on the wrong body part.

In any of these cases, the patient has the right to file a claim against the medical staff for malpractice.

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Improperly Delivering Anesthesia

Another serious form of surgical malpractice is anesthesia malpractice, which can occur just before surgery begins. Just about any error made during the administration of anesthesia can have serious, or even fatal, consequences. Dangerous anesthesia errors can result from defective equipment, but they most often involve negligence or incompetence on the part of a medical professional. The most common types of anesthesia errors include:

  • Giving the patient too much of one or more drugs.
  • Administering too little of one or more drugs, and failing to notice issues before they arise.
  • Delaying giving anesthesia when needed, causing the patient tremendous pain and discomfort.
  • Using the wrong type of anesthetic.
  • Failing to adjust what types of drugs are used relative to the medications the patient has in their system.
  • Giving a patient a drug they're allergic to.
  • Failure to properly monitor patients.
  • Negative interaction of drugs (synergistic or antagonistic).
  • "Diverting" or stealing of medication by the health care professional.

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Common Causes of Malpractice During Surgery

There are many reasons why surgical errors occur. Here are some of the most common causes:

  • Insufficient planning: The surgeon and his or her team must prepare for any complications that may arise. They also must ensure that all necessary equipment is ready and available.
  • Incompetence: Inexperience is extremely dangerous in an operating room. When a surgeon lacks expertise, experience, or competence in performing certain procedures, it is the patients who are in danger of suffering serious complications.
  • Improper work process: Taking shortcuts may save time, but it can be extremely dangerous during surgery.
  • Lack of communication: Bad communications prior to surgery, or a failure to communicate with staff during surgery, can lead to a wrong-site surgery, improper dosage of medications, and other serious errors that could put the patient's life in danger.
  • Fatigue: Surgeons are often asked to work long hours with little rest. Mistakes are more common when a surgeon has not been given proper time to rest.
  • Forgetting a foreign object: Surgical tools, sponges, and other foreign objects are sometimes left in a patient’s body after surgery is completed. This is a known problem in medicine and is absolutely preventable.

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Postoperative Negligence

Medical professionals’ primary responsibility after surgery is to take adequate measures to prevent the patient from developing an infection or other complications. This responsibility applies to both inpatient and outpatient surgeries. Monitoring a patient’s vital signs, blood work, and other indicators is critical. Postoperative patients are very susceptible to infections such as staph, MRSA, or pneumonia, which can compromise the patient’s overall health. A sterile environment, wound care, and changing bandages are all critical to eliminating the potential for infection.

After a surgical procedure, there is a medical standard of care that the facility must provide to a patient. If a medical facility fails to provide this level of care and attention and a patient suffers avoidable postoperative complications, the facility may be liable.

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Plastic Surgery Malpractice

Unlike cosmetic surgery, which is optional, plastic surgery involve procedures that are meant to help a patient recover from serious trauma. It comes with many of the same risks as other invasive operations and requires the same high level of care. If a surgeon or other staff break protocol, it can lead to serious injuries. Some of the most common examples of medical malpractice in the plastic surgery field are:

  • Failing to evaluate the patient’s history thoroughly, which can result in an allergic reaction to medication or other error.
  • Unqualified personnel assisting in the surgery, which could result in serious injury to the patient.
  • Improper administration of anesthesia, whether it is administered by the surgeon or by an anesthesiologist.
  • Improper procedure performed, such as when the left hand needed to be corrected but work was done on the right hand.
  • Failing to obtain a patient’s consent, even if the doctor found through the initial surgery that another surgery was required.
  • Improper use of equipment or using the wrong equipment for a specific procedure.
  • Responding in an incorrect way to complications.

These are just a few errors that can be made during plastic surgery, but anytime something goes wrong due to a healthcare professional’s negligence, there may be a case of medical malpractice.

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Proving Surgical Malpractice in Washington

There are no "minor" surgeries. Receiving anesthesia and going under the knife is a risk regardless of your health condition before the procedure. The last thing patients and their families want to hear is that something has gone wrong during surgery. Not all surgical errors are the result of medical negligence, but all victims of surgical mistakes would be well advised to research their legal options.

Victims of medical malpractice can pursue financial compensation for their financial, emotional, and physical losses. If you have suffered damages because of a surgical error (including errors during plastic surgery), you will have to prove that you were the victim of malpractice. You will have to show that the mistake that caused you harm fell below the medical standard of care.

Even if you are able to show that the surgical team violated the standard of care, you may still need to prove that you suffered "actual harm" because of the error. This is more straightforward in wrong-site surgeries, or in cases where the surgeon left instruments inside the patient's body. However, in other cases, it may prove more challenging to present evidence.

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Contact an Experienced Seattle Surgical Malpractice Lawyer at Pendergast Law

If you are the victim of a surgical error, please contact the experienced Seattle medical malpractice attorneys at Pendergast Law. We will analyze your case and help make sure you are fairly compensated for all your injuries and losses. Contact us at (888) 228-3860 for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation.

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