Every single day, thousands of people undergo surgical procedures. No matter what the specific type of surgery, if you have experienced one, there is one question you may want to ask yourself: Would you know if a surgical error happened to you?

This is not an easy question to answer. Even when an error has occurred, it could take months or even years for symptoms to begin to show. However, surgical errors are often considered medical malpractice. It’s important to understand how you could tell if a surgical error happened to you and what your legal rights are in such a situation.

What Is Medical Malpractice?

It’s important to be able to distinguish between a surgical error and medical malpractice. Generally speaking, just because a surgical error occurs, it doesn’t necessarily automatically mean that someone is guilty of medical malpractice. Medical malpractice takes place when a patient suffers injury as a direct result of a standard of care by a doctor or other healthcare professional that is significantly below the expected standard of care.

This means that if the surgical error did not fall below the expected standard of care or if you suffered no harm as a result of the mistake, it is not considered medical malpractice. However, if the surgical error occurred as a result of certain elements and you have suffered injuries as a result, you may have a legal right to file a personal injury claim.

What Is a Surgical Error?

A surgical error is a preventable mistake that takes place during a surgical procedure. While there is a level of risk in all surgeries, errors sometimes occur. Due to the risks associated with any type of surgery, patients are required to sign a consent form that states they understand the risks. However, surgical errors are not included in those risks and are unexpected events.

Why Do Surgical Errors Happen?

Surgical errors can happen for a variety of reasons. Every surgical procedure is unique, which means the reasons behind the mistake may also be unique. The following are common reasons for surgical errors.

 Drugs or alcohol: 

If the surgeon is intoxicated by drugs or alcohol, an error can easily occur during surgery. This is grounds for a lawsuit.

Fatigue

Fatigue is a common reason for surgical errors. Surgeons work long, tireless shifts and get few chances to rest. It can be difficult to perform normal activities on too little sleep, so it’s especially important for surgeons to be fully rested.

Improper Work Process

The doctor may make a mistake in deciding what steps are necessary or unnecessary during surgery, which can lead to surgical errors.

Incompetence

If the surgeon is incompetent, as in lacking the required skills to perform the surgery, it can easily result in surgical errors.

Insufficient Preoperative Planning

Surgeons must be fully prepared to perform surgery. This requires everything that encompasses the preoperative planning process to ensure that everything goes as it’s supposed to. If there’s an issue with that preparation, surgical errors can occur.

Neglect

Neglect is one of the number one reasons for surgical errors. It’s also sufficient grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Poor Communication

If poor communication occurs, surgical errors can happen. Failure to communicate can result in dire results.

Finding Out an Error Happened to You

Unfortunately, surgical errors occur all the time. If you suspect that one happened to you and you have suffered as a result, you will want to know if this is indeed the case. However, you shouldn’t expect a doctor or other healthcare professional to admit that a mistake happened during your surgery. According to a survey, less than two-thirds of surgeons in the country have admitted to patients or their families that surgical errors occurred.

In general, you will most likely have to be your own advocate when trying to determine whether you were affected by a surgical error. You can ask your surgeon questions about what happened before, during and after your surgery. Although surgeons won’t necessarily offer unsolicited information, they will probably not lie to you when asked direct questions, either.

You should also consult with a personal injury attorney about starting a legal claim to cover your damages. In order to win your case, you must prove that the surgeon violated the accepted standard of care, and that this specific violation resulted in serious harm (http://www.cohenjaffe.com/). The legal process can be very daunting and just knowing your lawyer is there to help can be a huge stress relief. 

Cite this article as:
Editorial Staff, "Surgical Errors: Will You Know if It Happens to You?," in Medicalopedia, January 26, 2021, [Permalink: https://www.medicalopedia.org/9532/surgical-errors-will-you-know-if-it-happens-to-you/].