New Jersey Surgical Negligence Attorney

Understanding Surgical Negligence and Malpractice

When you undergo a surgical procedure, you expect the surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologists, and post-surgical care teams, as well as the medical facility where the procedure is performed, to comply with the "standards of care" required within the medical profession. We also expect our healthcare providers to be adequately trained and prepared. Unfortunately, despite expectations, preventable errors do occur quite frequently. Those errors may result in significant injuries or death, and may be the basis for a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Intraoperative errors may cause organ damage, muscle damage, or nerve injuries resulting in a host of permanent conditions and the need for further, prolonged, and expensive treatment. These injuries may render a person unemployable and permanently disabled, or may result in death. Intraoperative anesthesia errors may result in brain, heart, and nerve damage.

Similarly, proper postoperative care is necessary to ensure that a patient does not suffer from infections, post-op bleeds, etc., which may also result in serious injuries or death if not timely and properly addressed.

Discuss Surgical Risks with Your Doctor

Before your surgery, your healthcare providers should help you understand your procedure. Topics, including the risk of various complications, should be discussed, and healthcare providers should provide you with an opportunity to ask questions and/or voice concerns that you may have. You should be provided information with regard to any alternative modes of treatment, their risks and benefits, so you can make an informed decision as to the course of your care.

If your child is the surgical patient, you have a right to information regarding the procedure and any relevant pre and postoperative test results. Absent dire emergency situations, physicians may not make any medical decisions regarding your child without consulting you first, and the standards of care require that they provide adequate and timely information to the parents and/or guardians of minors, so the best course of treatment is implemented.

Clearance for Surgery After Medical Testing

Preoperative testing is an integral part of the "surgical process.” This testing not only serves to clarify the medical issues which need to be addressed, but also acts as a mechanism through which healthcare providers "clear" you for surgery as a good candidate. It also gives surgeons and anesthesiologists information relative to potential problems or issues they need to be aware of.

A failure to adequately perform preoperative testing or recognize the significance of the results is a departure from the standards of care, and may result in significant injuries.

Common Surgical Errors Suffered by Patients

Surgical errors occur in frequently performed procedures and postoperative care. It is reported than 4,000 preventable surgical errors occur every year at a cost of more than $1.3 billion in malpractice payouts.

It is not unheard of for surgeons to perforate the bowel during a colonoscopy, lacerate the bladder during a tubal ligation, slice the muscles that control the eyes during sinus surgery, or cause nerve damage with a slip of the scalpel. However, not all surgical errors involve accidentally cutting unintended parts of the body. "Never events" also occur - wholly preventable incidents with the potential to cause harm or death to the patient, including:

  • Foreign objects in the patient’s body: Surgeons work with scalpels, clamps, gauze, and a variety of surgical instruments in performing surgery. All too often, a surgeon closes the incision with one of these items left in the patient’s body. This can lead to serious infection, severe pain, and even death in some cases.
  • Wrong site surgery: Inconceivable as it may seem, surgeons have been known to operate on the wrong side of the body, removing a healthy organ or limb and leaving the diseased organ or limb in place.
  • Wrong patient surgery: When proper hospital protocol is deficient, communication errors occur. Preoperative verification procedures may not be followed, with surgeons performing surgery on the wrong patient. Patients can lose healthy organs and suffer other serious, life-changing consequences with a surgery that was scheduled for another patient.

Even when the surgery goes as planned, medical negligence during post-operative care can result in serious infections, extended recovery times, the need for further treatment, and even death. Postoperative care starts the instant you leave the operating room and continues until follow-up is no longer needed. Breach of the standard of care in the post-op period can give rise to a medical malpractice claim.

Standard of Care and Liability for Surgical Errors

Health care providers are not necessarily liable for medical complications associated with a surgical procedure. Medical malpractice only occurs when a medical professional or facility violates the accepted standard of care, and that breach of duty leads to an injury to the patient. This is known as medical negligence.

The standard of care can be defined as the generally accepted practices and procedures other medical providers would perform when treating a patient with the same condition. Performance within the standard of care will vary depending on the patient’s age and overall health. For example, a procedure that is appropriate for a young, fit adult may not be appropriate for a patient who is elderly and infirm. To prove medical malpractice in New Jersey and many other states, it is not enough to show that the patient suffered injury during the course of medical treatment. You must also show that the healthcare provider breached the standard of care, and that the patient’s injuries are a direct result of that breach. If you have been the victim of surgical negligence, an experienced medical malpractice attorney can make all the difference in the success of your claim.

Contact One of Our New Jersey Surgical Mishap Lawyers

Injuries resulting from pre, post, and intraoperative treatment may be a result of medical negligence. The New Jersey law firm of Blume Forte Fried Zerres & Molinari has the knowledge and experience to determine if your treatment has been performed properly and if you can file a claim for damages stemming from your injuries and related losses (lost wages/disability, costs of care, quality of life issues etc.). Please contact our New Jersey medical malpractice attorneys for a no-cost evaluation of your potential claim at (973) 635-5400.

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If you need to consult a New Jersey personal injury attorney, you need to contact Blume Forte Fried Zerres & Molinari. The initial consultation is always free.

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