When a person visits the doctor’s office or the emergency room of a hospital, they are entitled to receive a certain standard of medical care. Unfortunately, the standard of this “medical care” varies widely from hospital to hospital. In the most extreme incidences, the very hands that are suppose to be helping a patient can ultimately become the cause of their death. Below are examples of why medical malpractice litigation is necessary and ultimately the most effective insurance against insufficient or negligent medical care.
1) Dana Carvey Bypasses Wrong Artery
In 2001, USA Today reported one of the more well known cases of medical malpractice happened to Saturday Night Live alumni, Dana Carvey. Roughly two months after the double bypass operation that was suppose to preserve his life, Mr. Carvey received the news that the surgeon had bypassed one of the wrong arteries. The surgeon, who performed the surgery, stated that it was an honest mistake that occurred due to the unusual positioning of Mr. Carvey’s artery in his heart. Dana Carvey felt quite differently, and subsequently, he filed a $7.5 million lawsuit against the surgeon and the hospital.
2) Doctors Perform Heart Surgery on Wrong Patient
It would be quite easy for most readers to dismiss the aforementioned case as an anomaly. Before disregarding its merits, consider the following two cases. A 67 year old woman, who was given the pseudonym of Joan Morris, was admitted to a teaching hospital to have a cerebral angiography performed. After the procedure was completed, Ms. Morris was returned to a hospital room on a different floor than her original one. Instead of being discharged as planned the next morning, she was whisked away to have an open heart procedure performed. After having been upon the operating table for over an hour, a doctor from a different department called and asked what they were doing with his patient. Once the mistake was realized, the procedure was canceled, and Ms. Morris was returned to her room in stable condition; however, the potential consequences of the extra surgery performed included significantly increased risks of heart attack, stroke, internal bleeding and infections.
3) Surgeon Drills Hole on Wrong Side of Head
In a similar manner, surgeons at the Rhode Island Hospital performed surgery on the wrong side of a patient’s head, for the third time in one calendar year. This particular incident occurred in November of 2007. An 82 year old patient required the operation to stem the flow of bleeding from her brain to her skull. The surgeon immediately started the procedure off incorrectly by drilling a hole on the wrong side of the patient’s skull. This action occurred despite the fact that a CAT scan, performed only moments before, indicated that the bleeding was happening on the left side of the brain. The mistake was caught early on, and the resident surgeon closed the initial hole and proceeded to the correct side of the patient’s head. Although the patient survived the surgery in fair condition, two other similar incidents had occurred within the last year, one of which had resulted in the death of an 86 year old man.
4) Girl Dies from Incompatible Blood Type
While these cases are appalling in and of themselves, an individual would think that most doctors would ensure that these types of mistakes did not occur when children were involved. Unfortunately, the exact opposite is true. Take the case of JesicaSantillan for example. CBS News unveiled the story of a seventeen year old girl, who was originally from Mexico, who had been in the United States for three years, seeking medical treatment for a life threatening heart condition. A heart and lung transplant was scheduled to be performed at Duke University Medical Center, in Durham, North Carolina. The surgeons who performed the procedure failed to check the compatibility of the donor’s blood type with Jesica’s. A second transplant, meant to rectify the mistake made during the original operation, caused complications to occur, which sent Jesica into a coma. Brain damage and other complications caused her death to occur two weeks later. The hospital stated that human error was to blame for Jesica’s death.
5) Woman Seeks Abortion Only to Birth Premature Baby
Another case, involving a teenager named Sycloria Williams, occurred in Florida, according to sources presented by CNN. Ms. Williams sought to have an abortion, which was to be performed at the A Gyn Diagnostic Center. Rather than having the prescribed abortion, an unlicensed doctor was permitted to give Ms. Williams a medication that caused her to deliver a baby girl, who was extremely pre term. According to the patient, her child was born alive. Although the child died shortly thereafter, it took detectives quite awhile to find her remains. The man who performed the medical procedure was charged with tampering with evidence, practicing medicine without a license, and several other various charges.
6) Fertility Clinic Confuses DNA
In a similar story, with a different twist, a fertility clinic in New York impregnated Nancy Andrews, not with the sperm of her husband, but with the sperm of a complete stranger. Rather than giving birth to a child that resembled both of her parents, Baby Jessica, who was born in October of 2004, had significantly darker skin. Subsequent DNA tests revealed that Baby Jessica’s biological parent was of African descent. Although the Andrews have kept Jessica and are raising her as their own, the couple has filed a medical malpractice suit against the fertility clinic and against the embryologist who reportedly accidentally switched the samples.
7) Doctors Ignore Patient Symptoms Resulting in Death
Although these mistakes are horrific enough, there are instances where a patient is unable to even be seen by a doctor before succumbing to their illnesses. One of the most well known cases is that of Esmin Green. Ms. Green visited the emergency room of Kings County Hospital, located in Brooklyn, New York. On that day in June of 2008, Ms. Green waited almost twenty four hours to be attended to by a physician. Eventually, she collapsed on the floor of the emergency room. Others patients in the emergency room reported that employees of the hospital watched the patient lashing about on the floor, but they did nothing to intervene or alleviate the patient’s distress. Subsequently, Ms. Green died on the floor of the emergency room.
8) Man Remains Conscious During Exploratory Surgery
It would seem to be a horrific storyline from a medical drama on television. In the script, a patient awakens during surgery, but is unable to communicate to the surgeons or nurses that he or she is awake and can feel every ounce of pain during the surgery. This situation actually occurred to Sherman Sizemore, a 73 year old Baptist minister from West Virginia. The surgery was originally supposed to explore the cause of the man’s continual abdominal pain. During the surgery, Mr. Sizemore experienced a rare condition known as anesthetic awareness. Essentially, he was able to feel all of the pain, discomfort, and pressure during the surgery. The anesthesiologists present during the surgery did not give Mr. Sizemore the general anesthetic that would have rendered him unconscious until 16 minutes after the surgery began. Family members contend that the trauma of the experience led the minister to kill himself two weeks after the surgery.
9) Surgeons Forget Their Tools Inside Patient
Donald Church, 49, was lucky enough to have had the anesthesia correctly administered during his June 2000 surgery at Washington Medical Center in 2000. The surgery was intended to have removed a tumor located in his abdomen. The tumor was removed. In its stead was left another souvenir, a 13 inch long metal retractor. Doctors at the hospital admitted to accidentally leaving the retractor inside of Mr. Church. It was not the first time that such an “accident” had occurred in the hospital. Four other documented incidences had happened at the hospital between the years of 1997 and 2000. The retractor was removed shortly after its discovery, and Mr. Church did not suffer any long term health effects from the mistake. A settlement was reached between the two parties for the amount of $97,000.
10) Wrong Leg Amputated
In the aforementioned case, Mr. Church was fortunate enough to avoid any long term medical consequences for the surgeons’ mistakes. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for a separate case involving Mr. Willie King. In 1995, the 52 year old Mr. King was admitted to University Community Hospital in Tampa, Florida to have his leg amputated. During the procedure, the wrong leg was amputated. By the time the surgeons realized their mistake, it was too late to reverse the damage caused, and the leg had to be removed. The attending surgeon was fined $10,000, and his medical license was revoked for six months. The hospital paid Mr. King $900,000, and the surgeon personally paid him another $250,000. The hospital admitted that a chain of errors culminated in the wrong leg being prepped for the surgery.
11) Functioning Kidney Removed
Mr. Church’s case is not an isolated one. Surgeons at the Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital, in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, removed the wrong kidney in a patient during surgery. The patient was to have one kidney removed, because it was believed that the kidney had a tumor, which was thought to be cancerous. The discovery of the horrific mistake was uncovered when the pathologist on call at the hospital examined the removed kidney and discovered no evidence of cancer. Fortunately for the patient, the suspect kidney remained intact and functioning. Per the family’s request, no more details were released about the incident.
12) Testicular Cancer Risk Treatment Gone Wrong
In another case involving similar mistakes, Mr. Benjamin Houghton suffered the loss of his one healthy testicle. The forty seven year old patient was a veteran of the Air Force, who had been complaining of pain and shrinkage in his left testicle. Due to concerns about the risk of cancer, the decision was made for surgeons at the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center to remove the diseased testicle. During the procedure, the healthy, right testicle was removed by accident. Later, it was revealed that a chain of errors, from errors on the patient consent form to failure on the part of the medical staff to properly mark the correct surgical site, resulted in the accident. Mr. Houghton and his wife, consequently, filed a $200,000 lawsuit against the hospital and the surgeons involved.
13) Man on Life Support Dies from Ingestion of Ketchup Packets
Even when a patient has had their medical procedures performed correctly and has received adequate medical care, medical malpractice can still occur. A prime example of this danger is the case of a 36 year old man, from Arizona, who received a traumatic brain injury. His devoted wife kept him on life support when the doctors told her his case was hopeless, and he eventually recovered consciousness and was able to speak again. Every week, on her days off, she brought him home with her. On one of the days she was to bring him home, she received a call from her husband’s assisted living facility that he was vomiting. Shortly upon arriving home, her husband died in her arms. At his autopsy, a number of foreign objects were found in his stomach and his bowels, from unopened ketchup packets to plastic bags to paper towels. These items were determined to be one of the contributing causes to his death, and in a subsequent lawsuit, the jury returned an $11 million verdict against the assisted living facility.
All of these stories are horrific enough themselves; however, they also highlight the imperative need for patients to be vigilant about their healthcare. Furthermore, when it is appropriate, surviving patients or the families of deceased patients need to seek justice where it is due.
The Sawyer Firm has dealt with numerous cases of medical malpractice and helped many clients receive reparations they deserve.