In a previous blog post, we discussed the concept of medical negligence. After reading that post you might still have questions about how a medical provider can make a medical mistake that causes a bad outcome and there still not be legal negligence. Let’s talk about the answer to that question more closely.
I’m guessing a lot of you will relate to the story of Mr. John below:
Mr. John is a 72-year man who went to see his orthopedic surgeon about severe left knee pain that developed after slipping on ice. After the examination and an MRI scan, his doctors determined that he had a tear in one of the ligaments inside the knee. The surgeon recommended surgical repair. Because the physical therapy he was doing was not making a dent in his pain, Mr. John agreed.
Before the surgery, Mr. John went to see the surgeon for a pre-operative consultation to discuss the risks, benefits, and alternatives of the surgery. The benefits of the surgery were obvious—to repair the torn ligament, restore function to the knee, and reduce the pain. The surgeon told Mr. John that there was a 5% chance of complications after surgery but only a 1% chance of severe complications. The less severe complications were things like continued stiffness and ongoing cartilage damage. The severe complications included infection, a blood clot, or even death.
The surgeon answered all of Mr. John’s questions and Mr. John even signed a consent form. The surgery went as planned. But one week after the surgery Mr. John was diagnosed with a severe infection of the joint that required hospitalization for antibiotics. While Mr. John was in the hospital he was immobile. As a result, he developed a blood clot in his leg. He had to stay in the hospital for an extended period of time. He also had to be on blood thinners for a year. The knee is still stiff, but he has only mild to moderate pain.
So here’s the question: Can Mr. John successfully sue the surgeon for medical malpractice given that he developed a severe complication after surgery? And the answer is – maybe. Here is a way to think it through:
Medical Mistakes Can Happen Even Though Risks Are Disclosed:
First, does the fact that the surgeon discussed the complications mean that he now cannot be successfully sued for medical malpractice? Answer: NO! It will depend on whether the circumstances surrounding the development of the infection were violations of the standard of care. Maybe the surgeon forgot to order antibiotics for Mr. John right after surgery. If that is the standard of care, then perhaps this medical mistake is a good case. This is true regardless of the fact that the surgeon discussed infection as one of the potential complications. So, complications after surgery can be an actionable medical mistake caused by negligence. Or it might be that “stuff happens,” and it was just bad luck that the patient developed the complication.
Medical Mistakes Can Result From Delay
Second, even if the infection was not the product of a medical mistake, was the infection detected as quickly as it should have been? Did the delay cause it to become more severe? Once his infection was detected, did the surgeon act appropriately in prescribing the correct antibiotics? Was the blood clot that developed a medical mistake by the surgeon or the hospital? Maybe the hospital should have had the patient up and walking around sooner and that would have prevented the blood clot?
Only Experience Lawyer Can Find A Valid Case
A seemingly simple story is actually a very complicated medical mistake and legal scenario. Only an experienced lawyer can answer these difficult questions. At Osterbind Law PLLC, we have the experience and know-how to piece together these complicated medical stories. We can combine them with a thorough knowledge of the law to figure out if you have a good medical malpractice case. You will find that our intense effort on your behalf and our infinite compassion for you and your medical injury make us the best law firm in central Virginia to deal with your medical malpractice claim.