A North Carolina medical malpractice jury returned a verdict in excess of $6 million in favor of the medical malpractice plaintiffs on October 10, 2012. The medical malpractice jury found that a surgeon had left a large sponge in a woman’s abdominal cavity following surgery that led to infection and other complications that caused a delay in the woman’s chemotherapy treatment and radiation therapy for her cancer, which resulted in her death. The 56-year-old mother of three spent nearly a year in the hospital before she died on October 12, 2006.
The woman was diagnosed with cancer and had undergone surgery to remove diseased tissue from her colon and rectum. The surgeon left an 18 inch by 18 inch surgical sponge in the woman, which was not discovered until 10 weeks after the surgery. Evidently the surgical nurse participating in the surgery failed to account for all of the surgical sponges used during the surgery, and the surgeon failed to remove the sponge and failed to confirm a proper sponge count at the end of the surgery. The retained surgical sponge led to the woman suffering an infection that delayed the treatment that she needed to fight her cancer.
The medical malpractice lawsuit was filed in May, 2008. The jury awarded in excess of $5 million to the woman’s estate and $750,000 for her surviving husband of 35 years. The prejudgment interest from the time of the filing of the medical malpractice case in 2008 until the jury’s decision earlier this month, along with legal fees owed by the surgeon to the plaintiffs, are in excess of $1 million.
The surgeon no longer practices medicine and her medical license in North Carolina is inactive. She allegedly became disabled sometime after she performed surgery on the woman.
There may be many bases for claims of surgical malpractice — improper surgical technique, failure to perform the proper surgery, failure to monitor the patient during surgery, cutting into the wrong tissue or severing a blood vessel, failure to diagnose and treat bleeding during and after surgery, etc. Some allegations regarding surgical negligence are more difficult to prove than others (especially since the patient who suffers from surgical errors or surgical mistakes is most often unconscious or heavily sedated during the surgical procedure). However, leaving a surgical tool, device, or sponge within a patient (which is often referred to as a “retained” object) is inexcusable — sponge counts performed before, during, and just prior to concluding surgical procedures by those assigned such tasks in the operating room are designed and intended to prevent such “misadventures” from occurring. It is well known that foreign objects left inside of patients can and often lead to infections and other detrimental conditions for the patient, including the need for additional surgery to remove the foreign object.
If you or someone you know may be the victim of surgical negligence, a surgical error, or a surgical mistake (such as leaving a sponge or surgical instrument inside after surgery), it is important to seek legal advice from a medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible in order to protect and preserve your legal rights.
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