Endoscopy: Injury, Malpractice and Patient Lawsuits
Endoscopy is a relatively safe medical procedure that rarely results in serious side effects. This article discusses those side effects, guidelines for determining if medical negligence has occurred when something goes wrong during endoscopy, and what’s involved in an injured patient’s medical malpractice lawsuit.
What is Endoscopy and What Are Its Risks?
When performing an endoscopy, your doctor inserts an endoscope (a plastic tube with a camera and light attached) down your esophagus or into your rectum to examine the various parts of your digestive tract. The endoscope may also be used to collect tissue samples for a biopsy, remove pre-cancerous polyps and insert devices to stop ulcer bleeding. A type of endoscopy called an endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography procedure (ERCP) can also be used to move or remove gall stones.
Endoscopies very rarely result in serious injury. Potential risks include:
- bleeding at the tissue or polyp removal sight
- side-effects from the sedation administered before the procedure, and
- perforation of the stomach wall or other site.
How Do I Know If Medical Malpractice Caused My Injuries?
With the exception of perforation, the occurrence of any of the risks listed above is not likely to amount to malpractice. Medical negligence occurs when your doctor fails to live up to the standards of a reasonably skilled practitioner in his or her field.
Bleeding, infection and sedation side-effects are somewhat unavoidable side-effects of endoscopy, and in all likelihood your doctor warned you of those risks. In some extreme cases that might be the result of malpractice, the infection might be caused by contaminated equipment or the wrong sedative having been administered.
Perforation, on the other hand, could be the result of unprofessional carelessness, i.e. malpractice. There is no easy way to tell ahead of time because a jury must decide whether malpractice occurred after hearing conflicting testimony from endoscopy experts for both sides (the injured patient and the doctor).
Special Issues in Medical Malpractice Cases
You should be aware that special laws and procedural rules are specifically designed to make suing a doctor more difficult than suing “ordinary” defendants. These include:
- A short deadline (“statute of limitations”) to start your case.
- Pre-suit requirements like screening panels, mandatory settlement negotiations and “expert affidavits” that must be filed alongside the initial complaint.
- Expert witnesses who are experienced in the particular field of health care must testify on behalf of either party.
- The total amount a plaintiff can recover from a health care provider might be limited by a medical malpractice damages cap in some states.
For details, check the Medical Malpractice Laws in Your State.
How Much Is My Endoscopy Malpractice Case Worth?
If you win your case, how much you recover will all depend on the extent of the extra medical treatment and medical bills stemming from the malpractice, any lost wages and other concrete expenses, as well as the dollar amount the jury puts on your pain and suffering. As mentioned above, keep in mind that some states have put damage caps on how much a medical malpractice plaintiff can recover, regardless of what the jury awards.
Sample Verdicts in Endoscopy-Related Medical Malpractice Cases
As an extreme example, a man in New York was awarded $12 million after a bile duct was perforated during an ERCP. The perforation was not identified and the man suffered a severe infection that permanently damaged his digestive tract, caused the onset of diabetes, and led to 22 subsequent hospitalizations.
A Florida man received $1.25 million after he was infected with Hepatitis C by an unsanitized endoscope.
Getting Help from a Medical Malpractice Lawyer
As you’ve probably gathered by now, medical malpractice is a complicated legal field with a lot of hurdles and uncertainties. If you think that the harm you suffered after an endoscopy is out of the ordinary and may be the result of your doctor’s negligence, then you should consult with an experience plaintiff’s medical malpractice attorney.