TC Palm News reported this week on the end of a medical malpractice trial in which a plaintiff-victim was ultimately awarded $257,000. The case involved a broke needle being left inside the woman during an operation. Surprisingly, each Chicago medical malpractice attorney at our firm can attest that these sorts of glaring mistakes-including objects being left in the body or surgery being performed on the wrong part of the body-occur at hospitals and medical facilities much more frequently than most would suspect.
In this particular case the plaintiff went to the hospital to correct urinary incontinence. The procedure went fine except that a part of a suturing needle broke off during the procedure. The involved doctor apparently stitched the woman up while the needle was inside-knowing full well that it was still in there. There remains disagreement about whether the doctor informed the woman that the needle had been left inside her stomach. However, it is clear that the woman began experiencing sharp pain in her abdomen. She returned to the doctor, this time her family physician, only to find that there was a half-inch needle inside of her. Fortunately, the needle was able to be removed, which relieved the pain.
According to documents that were released during the course of the medical malpractice trial, hospital records indicate that the woman did have a needle buried in her internal tissue but that the hospital left it up to the doctor to tell the patient. The victim explains that she was never shown the hospital records. In addition, the doctors own records (distinct from hospital records) did not indicate that there was a needle left in the body. The medical malpractice lawyer leading the case explained to the jury that “there was a significant failure of checks and balances.”
Both sides also disagreed during the trial on whether the needle posed danger to the woman when it was left in her body. The doctor claims that he left it there because opening up the body to get it out might have harmed nearby organs. Conversely, the plaintiff’s attorney explained that the needle was left in a dangerous location, near vital organs, which at the very least merited a real discussion about the possible risks.
In the end the jury agreed that the doctor and medical facility did not act appropriately when they left the needle inside the body and did not properly inform the patient of the situation. As a result they returned a verdict for the woman in the amount of $257,000. This includes medical expenses, other economic losses, and some damages for the pain that she was forced to go through as a result of the traumatizing abdominal pain.
It remains surprising that these sorts of cases still occur. Perhaps most shocking about this situation is that the patient left the hospital with a half-inch needle inside of her without any idea that it was there. Of course hospitals and medical providers should always fix errors that they make. But , even more than that, it is absolutely essential that patients at least be made aware of the situation with real discussions had about potential complications.
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