Victims of surgical errors cope with medical costs, health risks

By Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo & Plotkin LLP

Government data indicates that each year, thousands of patients in New York and across the country may be victims of malpractice related to surgical supplies being left inside their bodies. This type of medical malpractice is easily preventable and typically includes supplies such as cotton gauze and absorptive sponges rather than surgical instruments and clamps; however, these ubiquitous items can potentially have dire effects when left inside one’s body.

Medicare data suggests that the average cost for hospitalization related to this type of surgical error may be close to $60,000 per incident on average, and a medical malpractice lawsuit related to a surgical error such as this may cost a hospital approximately $100,000 to $200,000. Patients may endure pain and significant health complications as a result. Surgery and additional hospitalization may be required to remove the surgical supplies, and some complications, most commonly infection, may result in permanent health issues for the patient.

This type of error in surgery is related to negligence on the part of the operating team. Some hospitals have instituted the practice of giving patients a post-operative x-ray to quickly identify supplies that may have been left inside a patient. However, even with this practice, the patient must endure additional surgery and may have an increased risk of complications. More effective solutions, such as equipping sponges with a minuscule radio-tracking tag that can be scanned before a patient is closed up, are unfortunately still shunned by a majority of U.S. hospitals in spite of their proven efficacy.

Victims of a surgical error or another medical malpractice issue in the New York City area may experience expenses related to increased medical costs, lost wages and other expenses. By filing a personal injury lawsuit with the help of a New York personal injury lawyer, they may be able obtain compensation that can ease the financial burden they may face after such an event.

Source: WZZM 13 ABC, “Health Investigation: Surgery Mistakes,” Amy Fox, March 8, 2013

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