Medical professionals have very strict requirements when it comes to surgery and the instruments used and other necessary items like sponges. They all need to be counted before and after surgery. No instrument should be left inside you.
Not only would this be very traumatic for any patient, it is potentially deadly.
There are regular media reports about surgical instruments being left inside patients, here are few:
- ABC News – Patients left with surgical equipment in bodies
- Sydney Morning Herald – Mix-ups fall, but beware surgical souvenirs
- USA Today – What surgeons leave behind costs some patients dearly
The risk of post-surgical complications skyrockets when something like this happens. The risks are infection, requirement for further surgical procedures, pain, healing complications, and psychological injury.
"It is an all too prevalent medical mistake."
There is a Wikipedia page providing some background information on surgical instruments being left inside patients.
It is an all too prevalent medical mistake. However, while this is a real problem and it is a mistake, it may or may not fit the legal requirements for medical negligence.
Medical negligence requires:
- a breach of duty of care (liability);
- that the breach of the duty of care caused the injury (causation);
- that you be in a worse position than if the surgical implement had not been left in you (damage). For example you suffer a psychological injury, infections, and further surgical procedures.
Let’s look at this scenario of a scalpel being left inside you after surgery
It is suggested that a medical instrument was left inside you after your surgery. This suggests someone did something wrong and therefore it may not be difficult proving the breach of duty of care. Evidence will be required to prove the instrument was left inside.
The best way to find out if an instrument has been left inside is with an x-ray or other medical imaging. You can also obtain a copy of your medical records under Freedom of Information.
If you have undergone a surgical procedure there should be a checklist in your medical records counting instruments before and after the surgery.
The substantial issues in a case where a surgical implement is left inside a patient will probably arise in relation to causation and damages.
"...we will need to prove that the breach of duty of care caused you damage."
So now let’s assume it is proven the scalpel was in fact left inside. We now need to look at causation – that is, we will need to prove that the breach of duty of care caused you damage. If there was no further damage or injury to you, there would be no claim. However, if further injury or illness (including psychological illness) was caused, there is potential for a medical negligence claim.
Finally, if we’ve proven a breach of duty of care and proven causation, we need to look at what damage may have been caused and if that could result in a claim.
As you can see, there are several hurdles to get over before being able to lodge a claim for medical negligence compensation.
If you’ve experienced a situation where instruments were left inside after surgery and you have suffered further as a result of that (or any other medical negligence issue), please get in touch with today’s blog writer, Dionne Franklin. We can then talk about your particular circumstances and see if there are grounds for a claim.
You should do this in a timely manner as there are strict time limits when it comes to medical negligence claims.
Want to know more on “surgical counts” and the strict requirements on medical professionals in undertaking this task?
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