Medical Malpractice: Surgery and Hospital Stays

Author: Malcolm P. "Mic" McConnell, III, Richmond, VA Medical Malpractice Attorney

When a doctor or healthcare provider is negligent, and a patient is harmed by that negligence, that patient may have a medical malpractice claim. These claims can arise in countless different situations, but often come up in complicated circumstances—such as during surgery or when patients stay in the hospital for an extended period of time. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) estimates that between 44,000 and 98,000 patients die each year as a result of medical errors.[1]

How medical malpractice can occur: Surgery

One place where negligent errors can occur is in the operating room. Due to the complexities of surgery, mistakes can happen, but when they are the result of negligence, the surgeon at fault may be liable. Negligent errors can happen for many reasons, but the following are some common ones to look out for.[2]

  • General negligence. If a doctor or surgeon makes a mistake that a reasonable doctor under similar circumstance would not have made, you may have a claim for negligence.
  • Incompetence. Sometimes a surgeon may not be qualified to perform a certain type of surgery. If a surgeon proceeds to operate, despite being unqualified, they may be liable.
  • Fatigue. Long shifts mean that surgeons sometimes suffer from fatigue. When surgeons are tired, they may make mistakes that would not have occurred had they been well-rested.
  • Poor communication. Doctors communicate risks, procedures, medications, and dosages to patients, nurses, and other hospital personnel. Failing to effectively communicate a medication dosage or surgical risk can have serious consequences, and may give rise to a malpractice claim.
  • Drug use. Unfortunately, drug and alcohol use can sometimes be a factor in malpractice cases. If you suspect your doctor has been under the influence, and you suffered harm as a result, you may have a claim against them.

These are some common situations that give rise to malpractice claims. If you or a loved one has experienced any of these circumstances, consider consulting an attorney.

How medical malpractice can occur: Anesthesia

Almost always, surgery requires that the patient undergo anesthesia. Anesthesia is one of the biggest reasons that surgeries are considered risky, as anesthesia mistakes are usually more dangerous than mistakes made during surgery.[3] Human error is believed to be a factor in 65-87% of deaths that occur under anesthesia.[4] Risks related to anesthesia also increase with older patients, patients having major or emergency surgery, or patients who are ill, injured, or those with health issues prior to surgery.[5]

The following basic errors by an anesthesiologist can cause serious complications, and may give rise to a malpractice claim.

  • Failure to investigate the patient’s medical history;
  • Failure to fully inform the patient of the risks of surgery and anesthesia;
  • Giving a patient too much anesthesia;
  • Failing to properly monitor the patient’s vital signs during surgery;
  • Using defective equipment or equipment that is not properly labeled.

If you have suffered harm due to any of these errors, you may have a valid malpractice claim.

How medical malpractice can occur: Hospital Stays

An extended hospital stay can also give rise to malpractice claims. Often, patients staying at the hospital may see different doctors or nurses, depending on the length of the stay and doctors’ shifts. This means more opportunities for human error and miscommunication. When there is harm to the patient as a result, that patient may have a claim.

Medical malpractice cases can be as complicated as the laws that govern them. If you or a loved one believe you may be a victim of malpractice, or have experienced harm from a surgery or other hospital mistake, consult an experienced attorney to determine whether you have a valid claim. The medical malpractice attorneys at Allen & Allen can help you pursue full and fair compensation for the harm you have suffered. For a free consultation, call the Allen Law Firm at 1-866-388-1307.

About The Author: Malcolm "Mic" McConnell is the lead Medical Malpractice attorney at the Allen Law Firm and has more than 30 years of experience handling cases in a variety of medical specialties. Mic was named the Best Lawyers' Medical Malpractice Law - Plantiffs "Lawyer of the Year" in 2013 and 2016.


[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2933474/

[2] See, e.g., www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/surgical-errors-medical-malpractice.html.

[3] See generally http://patient.info/health/anaesthesia-death-or-brain-damage (discussing the risks of anesthesia).

[4] Supra note 1.

[5] http://patient.info/health/anaesthesia-death-or-brain-damage.

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