A Michigan husband and wife have been awarded almost $1.2 million by a jury in a medical malpractice lawsuit filed against a local doctor. The jury decided late last week after a two-day trial that the doctor was negligent regarding hernia surgery he performed in June, 2003. During the procedure, the man’s small bowel was nicked but the injury was not repaired at the time, causing him to have a septic reaction that included an long hospital stay. As part of the treatment for the nicked bowel, the man incurred several hundred thousand dollars of medical bills. The surgeon denied any negligence, saying that the patient knew of and appreciated risks and hazards involved in the medical treatment. The man’s wife was awarded $50,544 for being deprived the comfort, companionship, society, and services of her husband. A copy of the article regarding the case can be found here.
I have successfully handled a number of medical negligence / medical error cases in Baltimore and other counties in Maryland, and the District of Columbia, involving surgical malpractice. In this case, the malpractice probably was not causing the injury to the bowel, as that can happen during abdominal surgery. The problem here was the failure to timely diagnose (recognize) and treat the injury once it occurred. Before finishing up the hernia surgery, the surgeon should have checked to make sure that there was no unintended injury to organs including the bowel, found the injury and then repaired it. By not timely recognizing and repairing it, the man developed a severe abdominal infection, which progressed to sepsis, which is when the infection spreads through the blood to the rest of the body. Once the patient came out of surgery and exhibited signs and symptoms of an infection – usually abdominal pain, swelling, bloating, hardness of the abdomen – surgeon should returned the patient to surgery as soon as possible to stop the leak, wash out the abdomen and start the patient on antibiotics. These cases are tragic b/c someone goes in for a routine procedure and should be back on their feet in a few days, but ends up a long hospitalization, extensive medical care and problems that can last a lifetime.