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Towel Left in Patient During Surgery

The News Herald reported recently on a surgical error story that symbolizes the consequences of medical professionals not acting carefully in critical situations. According to the report, a woman in a medical malpractice case was diagnosed with colon cancer. Not long after her diagnosis she was told she needed to have surgery on her colon–a resection. Heeding the advice of her medical professionals, she agreed to the surgery.

Sadly, the medical team that conducted the operation was careless. It seems that during the operation a surgical towel–measuring one foot by two feet–was left inside the woman’s upper abdomen. As often happens in these situations, the problem was not discovered for quite some time. It wasn’t until four months later that the towel was identified. Another surgery had to be performed to remove it. Also, because of the damage caused by the product, two-thirds of the woman’s small bowel also had to be removed.

This sort of damage is not inconsequential–it has had very real impacts on the woman’s life. A representative for the family explained that “the loss of the bowel interfered with her ability to keep food from rushing through her system and has caused an inability for her to eat many foods, frequent bowel movements and the inability to leave her house.”

A medical malpractice suit was eventually filed. The parties were unable to reach a settlement in the matter, and so it went to trial. The jury in the case recently returned a verdict in favor of the woman. They found the medical team negligent and awarded the plaintiff just shy of $1 million for her losses. A representative for the family admitted his shock that the case went to trial at all, because the negligence was obvious. He suggested that this was a “frivolous defense,” because obviously leaving a two foot towel inside a small woman’s body (she is only five feet two inches and weighs 95 pounds) was malpractice.

Obvious Medical Negligence
This case is an example of obvious malpractice. During a surgey the patient is often not conscious and is at the full mercy of the medical professionals. Failing to act prudently often leads to egregious mistakes like the one in this case. Virtually every time that this sort of sitution arises the elements of a medicla malpractice will be met–a breached duty that causes harm. However, that does not mean that there won’t be some litigation in the matter. That is because parties often disagree on the extent of the damages. In other words, even if the medical defendants conceed that standards of care were breeched, they may suggest that the harm is minimal. Attorneys are still often required to advocate fiercely in these instances to protect the full rights of the injured party.

If you or a loved one may have been harmed by careless medical professionals–doctors, nurses, aides, and others–please get in touch with our office to see how we can help. Our team understands that many community members hurt by malpractice often struggle getting complete information about the quality of care they receive. Unfortunately, on many occassions it is only after a lawsuit is filed that the complete details of the care come to light. Because of that, no one should hesitate to call because they are unsure about their care. Visiting with an attorney and sharing your story does not obligate you to anything, it only provides you a way to receive more information to make an educated decision about how to proceed.

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