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Surgical Error Law in Maryland

Surgery is one of the most unnerving experiences one can have; I remember my own surgery, going down the list of things that could go wrong as I counted backwards and waited for the general anesthesia to take effect.  There is a great amount of trust in the skills and diligence of doctors in American society, and surgery is when it is best on display.  When there is a surgical error in Maryland, however, what is the relevant law that applies, and what should someone injured during surgery do?

Surgical errors are unfortunately common: doctors make mistakes like anyone else, but the thoughtless mistakes that are ordinarily easily forgivable are less so when a patient has entrusted themselves to a doctor’s care.  While it may be instinctual to believe that surgical errors resulting in complications are more common in difficult surgeries, it is more often the routine surgeries where doctors become a bit careless.

These injuries may not be immediately apparent, often being mistaken for usual post-operation symptoms; in some cases, it may not be evident for years that someone has been injured by an error a doctor made during surgery.  For example, a common error is materials like clamps, sponges or other tools are left inside a patient after surgery has been completed.

Other common errors around surgery include the wrong patient being operated on, resulting in an unnecessary surgery; the wrong side of the patient being operated on, which can result in an unaffected limb being amputated or the wrong lung being removed; and errors in anesthesia, which can cause an allergic reaction or result in too little oxygen getting to the patient, which can cause brain damage.

One of many tragic facts around this is that many of these errors could be prevented by simple measures like a checklist.  In fact, studies have found that properly-implemented checklists, such as the one promoted by the World Health Organization (WHO), prevent around 50% of deaths and almost as many complications: there are certainly tools to make surgery safer, but they are not universally employed by doctors and hospitals.

If someone is injured because of a surgical error in Maryland, there are two basic questions that need answering to determine if they have a medical malpractice case: 1) was there an act of malpractice or negligence performed by a doctor, hospital or other healthcare providers, and 2) did this act result in death, injury, pain or disability in the victim?  If so, then the one responsible may be liable for damages resulting from lost wages, pain and suffering, medical expenses and other expenses that may stem from the surgical injury.

“Those who are injured during surgery should keep in mind that there is a timeline in which these cases must be brought: a medical malpractice action must be brought within five years from when the injury occurred,” said Miguel Palmeiro of the Law Office of Miguel Palmeiro.  “There are nuances, however: for example, if the injury was the type that could not be discovered, it begins three years from the date when the injury was discovered if that would give more time than the usual five years; for a minor who is injured, the statute of limitations does not begin running until they turn eleven; if a minor is injured by a foreign object being left inside them during surgery or which damages their reproductive system, the statute of limitations does not run until they turn sixteen.”

There are a lot of issues to worry about when bringing these cases, from expert witnesses to calculating exactly how an injury will affect someone’s life to determine compensation.  If you find yourself injured after a surgery, please come down for a free consultation; remember, even if you don’t hire us, a brief consultation can help provide clarity for an otherwise confusing process.

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