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Who is Liable for a Wrong-Site Surgery?

Posted in Medical Malpractice

All cases of medical malpractice are devastating. You naturally expect your doctors and medical team to be among the most careful and reasonable professionals whose oath demands they first do no harm. That’s what makes it all the more distressing when you find yourself the victim of medical malpractice. Unlike some types of medical malpractice, proving that a wrong-site surgery occurred is easy. It’s quickly clear when the wrong kidney was removed or the wrong leg amputated. But understanding who is liable for the terrible mistake can be tricky because it typically involves failures at multiple levels in the hospital or surgery center where the surgery took place.

A skilled and experienced personal injury lawyer like those at the Fine Law firm in Albuquerque New Mexico can help navigate the complex legalities around wrong-site surgery medical malpractice so you can receive the compensation you deserve.

How Common Is Wrong-Site Surgery Malpractice?

Despite the universal protocol of a 3-tiered layer of protection against wrong-site surgery meant to protect patients from harm, wrong-site surgery still occurs in the United States approximately 40 times each week. Though the preoperative verification protocol recommended by the Joint Commission Board of Commissioners went into effect in July 2004, patient safety experts warn that the problem has worsened in recent years, resulting in as many as 2,700 cases per year in the US alone.

In order to avoid the disastrous mistake of wrong-site surgery, the medical team performs a pre-surgical verification to identify the correct patient, correct paperwork, and correct records. Then the surgeon physically marks the site of the surgery. These steps take place while the patient is awake and lucid. Finally, a “time out” takes place just before the surgery to confirm the following information before the surgeon makes an incision:

  • Correct patient
  • Correct site
  • Correct procedure

Some astonishingly common examples of wrong-site surgeries include:

  • Left and right side mix-ups
  • Operating on the wrong body part
  • Performing surgery on the wrong patient

If you’ve been the victim of wrong site surgery despite these protocols it means clear negligence took place and it’s time to determine liability.

How Is Liability Determined in Wrong-Site Surgery Medical Malpractice?

There are several parties potentially at fault for wrong site surgery mistakes including:

  • The hospital, surgery center, or clinic where the surgery took place
  • The surgeon
  • Any member of the surgical team

Most wrong-site surgery mistakes require an investigation to determine fault. It’s essential to identify which part of the 3-part pre-operative identification method failed before determining if the fault lies with the surgeon, the surgical team, or the facility. Sometimes a distinction is made between a surgeon employed by the hospital itself compared to one who’s an independent contractor. A hospital could still be liable if the error occurred due to a failure by a hospital employee rather than the surgeon.

If you’ve been harmed as a result of wrong-site surgery, you are entitled to substantial compensation for your losses. Losses include medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and in some cases in New Mexico, damages for loss of enjoyment of life if the results of the malpractice significantly reduce your quality of life.

Before a case for wrong-site surgery liability moves forward in New Mexico, a team of skilled investigators like those at the Fine Law Firm in Albuquerque must determine who is at fault in your medical malpractice case while providing compassionate guidance for your injury and recovery.