According to a report from the medical liability insurer Coverys, surgical errors are the second leading cause of malpractice claims in Alabama and throughout the U.S. The study focused on the malpractice claims that the insurer had closed between 2014 and 2018. A quarter of the 2,579 claims involved surgical errors. Only diagnosis-related claims were more numerous (32%).
Practitioner performance largely to blame
The surgeon’s performance during the procedure itself was the subject of 78% of all surgery-related claims. In 39%, the problem was a lack of technical skill while in 27%, the error arose because of an alleged failure in clinical judgment or communication. Most of the claims occurred in general surgery (22%), followed by orthopedic surgery (17%) and neurosurgery (8%).
Serious injuries and death were frequent
The errors could be wide-ranging. Patients in 7% of cases had a foreign object left in their body. Four percent underwent the wrong procedure while 3% had the wrong side or site operated on or were mixed up with another patient. In another 3%, there was a harmful delay in surgery. Patients suffered at least “permanent significant” harm in 29% of the claims, and 9% involved a fatality.
These errors can be prevented if physicians first of all let patients participate more in the decision-making process. Having a distraction-free environment is essential, too.
What victims of a medical error can do
Under medical malpractice law, those who are injured as a consequence of medical negligence are entitled to compensation. Achieving a fair settlement that covers all your losses is another matter, though, and may require the help of a lawyer. You may have a lawyer evaluate your case and, then, build it up with the help of independent investigators and medical experts. You may leave all negotiations to the lawyer, litigating as a last resort.