Nightmare movies often revolve around horrible events that change a person’s life forever. Medical malpractice is a nightmare that may change the lives of victims.
“When you are waiting to go into surgery at a hospital, there are things that run through your head that scare the heck right out of you. What if they operate on the wrong foot or arm? What if they leave something inside of me? The ‘what ifs’ are almost worse than the actual surgery,” said Charlie Donahue, a New Hampshire personal injury lawyer located in Keene. Donahue handles injury cases in New Hampshire and across the United States.
Just about every patient facing surgery knows that quiet fear in their heart of hearts. “The thing is, there are cases where a bad outcome was the result of chance and not negligence. This is something that many people do not understand. They think that if anything goes wrong, it is medical malpractice. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it isn’t. The devil is in the details of the case, and that is my job – to let you know if you do have a case we can move forward with,” Donahue said.
While the national statistics do show that surgical errors are more common than we may realize, some of them do include minor errors that did no harm. However, this is not always the case. “In fact, the American Medical Association estimates that over 98,000 people die every year due to a medical error, and that includes surgical errors. If you really analyze the numbers, you will see that medical errors kill more people than auto accidents, AIDS or breast cancer; hardly a statistic to be proud of,” Donahue said.
The most common surgical errors include, but are not exclusively limited to, patient consent errors, anesthesia mistakes, surgical site and surgical errors and the ever present specter of infection, pre- and post-operative. “Surgical errors do not refer to actual surgery alone,” Donahue said. “They may include mistakes before, during or after an operation and may be the result of an action, or lack of taking action, by any health care professional, and not just the doctor. Meaning, the negligence, if present, could be caused by a surgeon, nurse, anesthesiologist, radiation technician or nursing aide.”
Patient consent, or rather informed patient consent, is an area loaded with landmines. Patients are supposed to be told the full and complete information about any surgical procedure they are about to face. In other words, they are to be told the known risks and any possible side effects. “Unfortunately, some patients get a horrendously long surgical consent form handed to them just before the operation and are told to sign it. Later, if something bad happens, they are told they signed the form that said they consented to the possible risks involved. Not what you’d call fair ball,” Donahue said.
Surgical errors are another can of worms, as general surgeons may often be performing a specialist’s job, without knowing what the specialist does or without the same level of skill. “Are mistakes made? In some cases, yes. This is why, if you have been in a similar situation, don’t hesitate to call my office. That is what I am here for. I have the experience you need to handle your case and you get to ask as many questions as you like,” Donahue said.
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