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Foreign objects left in surgery patients far too often

Many Floridians shudder at the idea of an operation. The mere thought of doctors cutting open a patient and handling their internal organs with surgical instruments is enough to make some faint. But the reality of the matter is that surgery is extremely important, saving many lives and healing or aiding many medical conditions. Yet, as helpful as these operations can be, other times the nightmares come true and a surgical error leaves the patient with extreme pain, a worsened medical condition, or dead.

In addition to nicked organs and wrong-site surgeries, surgical instrument retention can pose a serious health risk to patients. A new report shows 772 foreign objects have been left in patients between 2005 and 2012. Of those cases, 16 resulted in death. These foreign objects can be sponges, towels, retractors, instruments, needles, and other tools a surgeon may bring into the operating room. Most of these incidences occur in emergency situations and have been found to be reduced when pre-and post-operation counts are done of all surgical equipment.

A retained surgical instrument can be extremely painful and, in many cases, is not discovered until the pained patient goes to the doctor again. In addition to dealing with the physical pain, the patient will likely have to undergo additional surgery to have the instrument removed, which may cause unwanted scarring, emotional strife, and financial woes.

A medical malpractice lawsuit may help these individuals recover their losses. A claim, if successful, may bring the injured patient compensation to cover medical costs, pain and suffering, and lost wages. To get to that point, however, the patient must succeed in showing the doctor was in fact negligent. This means proving the doctor breached the standard of care owed to the patient. This standard is typically the level of care an ordinary, prudent professional having the same training and experience in a similar community would provide in the same or similar circumstances.

Surgical errors are far too common, but are completely preventable. By filing a medical malpractice lawsuit a victim sends a loud and clear message that those who fail to prevent such accidents will be punished.

Source: CBS News, "Nearly 800 surgical tools left in patients since 2005: Report," Ryan Jaslow, Oct. 18, 2013

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