On March 2, 2016, a New York medical malpractice jury returned its verdict in favor of the 51-year-old plaintiff who suffered a bowel injury during her hysterectomy procedure in 2011 that was not discovered or treated by the defendant surgeon at the time of the surgery. As a result, the woman developed a serious infection that was left untreated for ten days.
During the plaintiff’s hysterectomy in April 2011, the defendant surgeon unintentionally cut into her bowel. The plaintiff’s medical experts testified during the medical malpractice trial that the defendant surgeon owed a duty to the plaintiff to carefully inspect, find, and repair the unintended injury to the woman’s bowel before he closed the surgical site, and his failure to do so resulted in the woman’s severe infection that caused her to be admitted to a hospital’s surgical intensive care unit five days later.
On the tenth day after the plaintiff’s hysterectomy, a different surgeon had to perform abdominal surgery to clean out the extensive infection. Unfortunately, the damage to the plaintiff’s bowel was so severe by then that a colostomy had to be performed. The plaintiff alleged that she had to wear a colostomy bag that collected her feces for seven months due to the defendant surgeon’s alleged medical negligence. She also required two additional abdominal surgeries as a result.
After a seven-day trial, the jury awarded the plaintiff $1.52 million ($700,000 for the woman’s pain and suffering in the past, $800,000 for her pain and suffering in the future, and $20,000 for the plaintiff’s lost wages).
After the six-person New York medical malpractice jury returned its unanimous verdict in her favor, the plaintiff stated, “I am grateful that the jury recognized the horrific injuries that I suffered and what I went through as a result of [the defendant surgeon’s] negligence.”
Is It Medical Negligence?
An unintended cut into a patient’s bowel during abdominal surgery may or may not be medical negligence – a patient’s anatomy may be such that a surgeon’s nicking the bowel may not be a breach of the standard of care. Most informed consent forms signed by patients prior to their abdominal surgery will explicitly list bowel injury as a risk of the procedure.
However, just because a bowel injury is a known and disclosed risk of abdominal surgery does not mean that when the unexpected occurs that the cause was not due to medical negligence (e.g., the passenger in a motor vehicle knows that there is a risk that the vehicle may be involved in a collision; nonetheless, if a collision occurs that injures the passenger that was caused by the driver’s negligent driving, then the driver is responsible for the passenger’s injuries).
Furthermore, even if the medical negligence of a surgeon who performed abdominal surgery cannot be proven after the patient suffers a bowel injury during the surgery, there may be actionable medical negligence if the surgeon unreasonably failed to check for and discover the bowel injury before concluding the surgery and/or failed to properly treat the bowel injury once discovered.
If you or a loved one suffered injuries or other harms as a result of medical malpractice in New York or in another state in the U.S., you should promptly seek the legal advice of a New York medical malpractice attorney (or a medical malpractice attorney in your state) who may investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and represent you in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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