In Oregon, surgical mistakes are a fairly common type of medical malpractice. However, the mere fact that a doctor made a surgical error does not mean that there is automatic liability to the patient for claimed injuries. There are some common outcomes associated with certain surgical procedures, and the patient will typically signs an acknowledgement that he or she is aware of and accepts those risks.
A former patient recently sued a medical center and its doctors for allegedly leaving two sponge pads inside his abdomen. The plaintiff alleges that the defendants performed surgery on him in Dec. 2013; it was a procedure to address his hiatal hernia and gastroesophageal reflux disease. The plaintiff alleges that the operation was aborted due to bleeding from a large artery, and the procedure was later converted to an open abdominal laparotomy.
After the bleeding was controlled, they returned to the original surgery. This required numerous sponges and pads. The lawsuit says that hospital officials recognized that an appropriate accounting for all sponges had not been made. The doctors took an X-ray to detect any artificial items but did not find any. The patient was eventually released.
However, the plaintiff allegedly deteriorated, contracted respiratory failure and was placed in intensive care. He alleges that a scan was performed that showed a "retained foreign object" in the stomach, where surgeons then discovered two laparotomy pads. The damages allegedly include additional surgery, invasive testing and monitoring and related cardiac problems. He also suffered respiratory failure that required prolonged endotracheal intubation with mechanical ventilation.
He alleges that it is negligence to leave sponges inside a patient's body. Surgeons have mandatory protocols for checking the presence of all equipment and sponges after surgery. This must be done before sewing the patient up. Oregon law as well as the negligence laws of all jurisdictions would generally recognize this case as surgical error that is negligence. If the plaintiff proves that the injuries were substantially caused by the foreign object, then the defendants are responsible for the compensation of those injuries.
Source: wacotrib.com, "2 Hillcrest patients claim medical malpractice against Baylor S&W", Tommy Witherspoon, Mar. 5, 2016