Three Real Life Case Studies of Surgical Mistakes

These stories provide a good practical and legal backdrop for surgical error malpractice cases.

Surgical mistakes can result in serious medical complications for patients. Errors by surgeons can run the gamut from performing unnecessary surgery on a patient, to negligent technique in carrying out the procedure -- even leaving medical instruments inside a patient. Many (though not all) common surgical mistakes rise to the level of medical negligence and can form the basis of a medical malpractice lawsuit against the surgeon and any other responsible party. To give you an idea of what these cases might look like, this article provides a snapshot of three real-life surgical mistake medical malpractice cases. 

Sophia Savage Case

In 2001, Sophia Savage underwent a hysterectomy at the Three Rivers Medical Center in Louisa, Kentucky. During the surgery, a surgical sponge was left inside her abdomen, but the presence of the sponge wasn't revealed until 2005, when Savage had an x-ray after she reported pain in her stomach. She had to undergo additional surgery to remove the sponge. During this procedure it was discovered that the sponge was lodged in her lower intestine. The doctors had to remove a 49 centimeter section of her small intestine in order to remove the sponge. Due to this she suffered from lingering abdominal pain, diarrhea, and constipation as well as bouts of anxiety and depression. She and her husband Darrell file a surgical mistake lawsuit against the Three Rivers Medical Center. The court awarded them $2.5 million in damages. Her husband Darrell was awarded additional $500,000 for loss of consortium.      

Unnecessary Lumpectomy in Ontario, Canada

In 2012, a patient's lymph nodes were removed during what turned out to be an unnecessary lumpectomy procedure performed at Windsor Regional Hospital in Ontario, Canada. The hospital's pathology department mishandled test results somewhere in the paperwork process, and the records of a healthy patient became mixed up with those of a woman who was in the advanced stages of breast cancer. At this same hospital, in 2009, an unnecessary mastectomy was performed on a healthy woman, prompting a $2.2 million medical malpractice lawsuit for unnecessary surgery.

Victoria Little Settlement                   

In 2007, Victoria Little underwent surgery for block arteries. The procedure left her a paraplegic. Improper surgical techniques used by the surgeons during the procedure resulted in Little's blood pressure dropping for a prolonged period of time, which deprived her organs and tissue of adequate blood supply. The mistake on the part of the surgeons resulted in a spinal cord injury and constant pain. In 2008, Little sued the surgeons in a Baltimore court and was awarded $3.5 million -- $1.3 million for non-economic damages, $2 million for future medical bills and more than $200,000 as compensation for prior medical treatment.

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