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Every surgical procedure, no matter how “minor,” can result in complications. Every surgery presents risks to the patient. But when complications occur due to an error during surgery, does that mean your surgeon has committed medical malpractice? Sometimes, the answer is no. Let’s look at the factors that can determine when surgical error is medical malpractice.

Defining Medical Malpractice

In order for medical care to be medical malpractice, the care must fall below the accepted standard of medical care and that substandard care must have caused harm to you. Thus, if a medical mistake did not fall below the relevant standard of care or if you were not harmed by it, then it is not medical malpractice.

In many medical malpractice cases, the court will define the standard of care as “the type and level of care that a reasonable health care professional of similar training and experience would provide under similar circumstances.'' Typically, in a medical malpractice trial you will have another health care professional in the same or similar specialty as your health care professional testify as to what a reasonable professional in that specialty would have done under similar circumstances.

What Is Surgical Error?

Surgical errors are preventable mistakes that occur during surgery. Not all complications are the result of preventable mistakes. Again, every surgery has risks; this is why surgeons explain the risks of the surgery to the patient and have the patient sign a form indicating he or she understands and agrees to the risks of the surgery. However, surgical error becomes medical malpractice when it goes beyond the known, accepted risks of the surgery.

Common surgical errors may include:

  • Unintentionally damaging a body party during the surgery
  • Improperly administering anesthesia
  • Leaving surgical equipment inside the patient
  • Performing surgery on the wrong body part
  • Operating on the wrong patient

It’s hard to believe that trained medical professional can leave objects inside a patient or even perform surgery on the wrong person, but these mistakes do happen through human error.

How Do Surgical Errors Happen?

Medical professionals are human. That means they are prone to making mistakes. Surgical errors can happen due to:

  • Lack of training: In some cases, the surgeon commits an error because he or she has not performed the procedure many times or lacks the training necessary to competently perform the surgery
  • Lack of planning: Successful surgery requires intense planning beforehand. Errors can occur when the surgical team fails to mark the correct surgical site, fails to have all necessary equipment on hand for the surgery, or fails to prepare for every possible complication that may arise
  • Faulty work process: Unfortunately, surgical teams may take shortcuts during the surgical process, such as not ensuring tools are properly sterilized or skipping steps during the surgery itself that the surgeon deems “unnecessary”
  • Poor surgical team communication: Errors can happen when a surgical team has poor communication, leading to complications such as improper administration of anesthesia or failure to take an action during a critical part of the surgery
  • Fatigue: Some surgeons work incredibly long hours. It goes without saying that a tired surgeon is more likely to make mistakes, including many of the above errors, than a well-rested surgeon
  • Intoxication: It sounds crazy, but some surgeons enter the operating room under the influence, whether it be from legitimately-prescribed medication that negatively affects motor skills or judgment, or may even be under the influence of illicit drugs or alcohol

Contact a Pittsburgh Medical Malpractice Attorney for a Consultation About Your Cerebral Palsy Case in Pennsylvania

Were you or a loved one injured due to medical malpractice in Pennsylvania? Then you need to talk to an experienced medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible for guidance on how to proceed. The Pittsburgh medical malpracice attorneys at Berger & Lagnese, LLC are prepared to assist you with your legal claim. We represent victims of negligent surgeons, doctors, nurses, and pharmacists throughout Pennsylvania, including Pittsburgh, Cranberry Township, Greensburg, and Uniontown. Call us today at (412) 471-4300 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free consultation. Our main office is located at 310 Grant St., #720, Pittsburgh, PA 15219.

The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.