All surgeries carry some element of risk for the patient. However, it is never excusable for patients to suffer completely preventable injuries because of a surgeon’s carelessness. If you, your spouse, or one of your family members suffered from post-surgical complications because a surgeon performed a procedure on the wrong organ or body part, or performed the wrong type of surgery, you may be able to recover compensation for your medical bills, the earnings you have lost, and other losses and hardships caused by the surgical error.
At the law offices of Hasbrook & Hasbrook, our knowledgeable team of malpractice attorneys brings over 75 years of legal experience to every claim we handle on behalf of injured Oklahomans. We frequently consult with medical experts, and know what to look for when litigating these complex cases. Our attorneys are passionate about fighting for justice on behalf of malpractice victims, and are proud to serve residents throughout the Oklahoma City area, including Norman, Edmond, Moore, Guthrie, El Reno, and Shawnee. To schedule a free and confidential legal consultation, call Hasbrook & Hasbrook at (405) 698-3040 today.
What Are the Most Common Causes of Wrong Site Surgery?
Wrong site surgery (WSS) can involve a few different types of surgical errors:
- Surgery on the wrong organ or body part.
- Surgery on the wrong part of the right structure (e.g. the wrong toe on the correct foot).
- Surgery on the wrong side of the patient’s body (e.g. removing the healthy left kidney instead of the diseased right kidney).
- Surgery on the wrong patient.
While such drastic mistakes should be easily preventable, and safety checklists introduced by the World Health Organization (WHO) have helped reduce the incidence of WSS, careless human errors like communication failures and inaccurate patient documentation can and do continue to cause avoidable incidents of WSS in hospitals throughout Oklahoma. A study by the Joint Commission found that the top three contributing causes to WSS were:
- Communication failures (70% of cases)
- Failure to comply with normal standards and procedures (64% of cases)
- Surgical team leadership failures (46%)
Surgeons, surgical assistants, and other healthcare professionals owe a duty of care to their patients. Doctors who make avoidable mistakes can potentially be held liable for any deaths or injuries which result from their negligent acts.
Common Types of WSS: Injury Statistics and Resulting Complications
According to medical researchers’ estimates, WSS occurs in only about one out of every 113,000 surgical procedures. As one study noted, “Although no specialty predominates, no specialty is immune from performing wrong [site] operations.” The same study pointed to the following WSS rates by type of surgery:
- Orthopedic and podiatric surgery (41% of cases)
- General surgery (20% of cases)
- Neurosurgery (14% of cases)
- Urology surgery (11% of cases)
The remaining 14% of WSS cases occurred primarily during:
- Dental and mouth/oral surgeries
- Cardiovascular surgery (heart surgery)
- Ear, nose, and throat surgery
- Maxillofacial surgery (jaw surgery)
- Ophthalmological surgery (eye surgery)
While WSS may be uncommon, these types of errors frequently have debilitating or fatal consequences for the victim. Depending on the nature of the surgery, the victim might lose their vision or full use of their dominant hand, which can be the end of a decades-long career. If vital organs are compromised, the victim might need to receive a transplant, go on dialysis, or require in-home care or medical devices to assist with basic functioning. Not only are these and other consequences physically and emotionally devastating, they also burden the victim with enormous medical bills which can create financial hardship for years.
Recovering Compensation: OK Damages Caps in Medical Malpractice Claims
When a plaintiff is able to prove that his or her injuries were avoidable, and were caused by the negligent acts of a surgeon or other healthcare professional, he or she may be awarded compensation known as “damages.” Malpractice victims in Oklahoma can potentially recover damages for hospital bills, lost earnings, pain and suffering, and other harms and losses.
Like many states, Oklahoma imposes limits called “damages caps” on how much compensation a victim may recover, depending on the circumstances surrounding the WSS incident. For example, non-economic damages – compensation for non-financial losses, such as pain and suffering or loss of enjoyment of life – are limited to $350,000 in medical malpractice cases. However, economic damages – compensation for financial losses, such as the cost of inpatient hospital care – are not subject to any caps or limits.
If the jury finds that extreme negligence occurred, punitive damages may be ordered in addition to economic and non-economic damages in order to punish the defendant. In Oklahoma City malpractice cases, punitive damages are subject to one of three caps:
- $100,000, generally
- $500,000, if the defendant acted with intentional malice
- No cap, if the victim’s life was in jeopardy
Think You Have a Case? Contact an Oklahoma City Medical Malpractice Attorney of Hasbrook & Hasbrook for a Consultation
If you or one of your loved ones was a victim of wrong site surgery in Oklahoma, the surgeon who performed the procedure may be liable for compensating you. To learn more in a free and confidential legal consultation, call the law offices of Hasbrook & Hasbrook at (405) 698-3040 today.