In 2001, a 30-year-old woman underwent an elective thyroid surgery at Brockton Hospital in Rhode Island. Less than 32 hours after the surgery she died. She developed “abdominal compartment syndrome” after the surgery, which ultimately caused her organs to fail. On March 8, 2008, a jury found that the surgeon Dr. John Ambrosino had committed medical malpractice. This finding was based on the fact that after the “abdominal compartment syndrome” was detected, Dr. Ambrosino opened the decedent’s stomach again but did not allow enough air to be released from the stomach. The jury awarded the decedent’s husband $14 million in damages.
Types of medical malpractice claims
Failure to diagnose or misdiagnosis is a common form of medical malpractice. This form of malpractice can result from a doctor that is uninformed, misinformed or simply too busy to reasonably provide medical treatment to patients. A misdiagnosis can lead a doctor to administer or prescribe the wrong medication or suggest the wrong treatment. This could ultimately aggravate the patient’s medical conditions. Additionally, the failure to follow up with a patient can give rise to a medical malpractice claim. This means if the doctor suggests a new drug or treatment but does not monitor the patient’s health, then the doctor may have been negligent. Doctors must also warn patients about the effect of a drug or treatment. For example, in 2007, an elderly woman died while driving because her doctors at Brockton Hospital did not warn her that the medication could impair her driving.
Anesthesia malpractice is another common medical malpractice claim. Patients are put under anesthesia for a variety of procedures including medical surgery, plastic surgery or dental surgery. Some offices that perform these surgeries use anesthetists instead of anesthesiologists. Anesthetists are nurses while anesthesiologists are doctors. As a practical matter, this means that anesthesiologists have more training.
Finally, surgical error is the last form of medical malpractice. Surgical errors include accidentally damaging tissue or organs during a procedure or using instruments that are not sterile. In some cases, doctors have left medical equipment in patients, which in turn caused serious physical damage. Additionally, the surgeon may even operate on the wrong part of the body. In one famous case, lawyers used the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur to prove that a patient’s arm was seriously injured while he was being transported under anesthesia. Res ipsa loquitur is Latin, and it means "the thing speaks for itself." Basically, it's a doctrine of law that a person or party is assumed to be negligent if they had exclusive control on the situation that caused the injury. This holds true even though there may not be any specific evidence of the negligent act.