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Patient Empowerment: How to Protect Yourself Against Surgical Negligence

While surgical negligence is a “never event” (a healthcare mistake so egregious that it never should have happened), it is all too common. While you should be able to trust your doctors, you can do a few things to empower and protect yourself against surgical negligence, including working with a Abogada de lesiones personales.

Patient Rights and Tips for Medical Negligence Prevention

As a surgical patient, you have the right to do as many things as possible to protect yourself from potential harm. Some of the things you can do to protect yourself from receiving substandard medical care include:

  • Researching your surgeon and the hospital. Check if they have a history of complaints or medical malpractice lawsuits. If so, consider choosing another doctor.
  • Discussing the surgery in full with your doctor. Ensure you know where the surgery will be conducted, what the surgery is for, how the surgery will occur, what potential side effects you may experience, and whether there are any alternatives. Your surgeon must obtain informed consent before performing a procedure.
  • Labeling the part of your body that will be undergoing surgery. Unfortunately, wrong-site surgeries happen. To prevent this, you should ask to mark the part of your body that will be undergoing surgery. 
  • Asking your doctor and other healthcare providers to confirm your name and the surgery they will be performing. Each person on the medical team should be able to tell you what your name is and what surgery they will perform. If not, correct them and ensure everyone on the team knows. Ask at each stage of the process.
  • Ensuring the doctor knows what medications you are taking and if you have any allergies. Some painkillers that medical professionals issue after surgery may be contraindicated with prescriptions you are taking. In other cases, some medications may lead to complications during surgery. For example, if you are on a blood thinner, you need to stop taking it for a certain period before surgery to ensure that your blood can clot. They should also be aware of any allergies you have to prevent adverse reactions during the surgery.
  • Bringing a trusted friend or family member with you to the hospital. Ensure they know all the information about your surgery and your medications. Be sure they are prepared to stand up for you if something doesn’t look right and you cannot speak for yourself.

You may be worried about upsetting or offending your doctor with these questions and actions, but your body and life are worth it. You want to ensure you leave the hospital better than you came in. 

Examples of Surgical Negligence

As discussed above, surgical errors are a “never event.” According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, surgical “never events” include: 

  • Surgery on the wrong body part
  • Wrong-patient surgery
  • Wrong surgery performed on a patient
  • Foreign objects left in the body
  • Death during or immediately following a surgical procedure due to medication errors, unsafe equipment, or other preventable causes

Other surgical medical errors include: 

  • Failure to sterilize instruments beforehand
  • Not properly checking medical devices to ensure they are in working order before surgery
  • Using recalled surgical devices
  • Using too much or too little anesthesia
  • Failure to monitor vital signs
  • Discharging a patient alone who cannot get themselves home or care for themselves properly after the procedure
  • Prescribing contraindicated medications
  • Failing to prep a patient for surgery (e.g., not taking a patient off blood thinners a few days before surgery)
  • Unsafe administration of blood products
  • Issues with post-operative care 

These surgical errors can result in amputations, infections, organ damage, the need for a second surgery, and even death.

Surgical Malpractice Signs to Look Out For

In some cases, surgical malpractice is immediately apparent. For example, you will know upon waking from anesthesia if the surgeon operated on the wrong body part. However, in other cases, you may not experience symptoms for days, weeks, or longer. Some signs to keep an eye out for include: 

  • Surgical site pain, redness, warmth, itching, or swelling (signs of infection)
  • Unexplained pain in other parts of the body
  • Worsening symptoms
  • A required second surgery
  • Loss of function or nerve damage
  • A longer-than-expected recovery

What to Do If You Believe You Have Been a Victim of Surgical Negligence

Unfortunately, sometimes the worst occurs, and patients suffer from a doctor’s failure to uphold a proper standard of care. If that occurs, you should: 

  • Keep copies of your medical bills and records. You should also document everything (or have a trusted person help you do so). This includes any time you speak with a member of your surgical team, any notes about pre- and post-op care, and anyone involved in your care. 
  • Seek follow-up medical treatment from a different medical professional. You may want to consider going to a different hospital system entirely. They can give you a second opinion and treat any issues from the surgeon’s negligence.
  • Get help from a medical malpractice lawyer

Call Today to Get Help After Surgical Negligence

In some cases, no amount of patient empowerment will prevent a surgical error. If you or a loved one was injured due to medical malpractice, our personal injury lawyers can help you fight to hold the medical professional liable via a medical malpractice claim or lawsuit.Call KJT Grupo de Derecho for a free consultation today: (818) 507-8525.

We Will Fight For You

Contact our firm to get started.
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