March 20, 2017
A surgeon at St. Vincent Hospital in Massachusetts removed a kidney from the wrong patient in July of 2016, according to WISH-TV.
Investigators reported in October that the surgeon removed a healthy kidney from a different patient with the same name. The two patients were several years apart, and the surgeon would have recognized the difference if he had followed proper patient protocol and checked the patient’s birth date.
Why “Accepted Standards of Care” Are So Important
Everyone makes mistakes, but for physicians, there are procedures in place to ensure that mistakes are avoided. If the surgeon had followed hospital protocol, his mistake would have been easily rectified.
The Joint Commission, a national hospital accreditation board, recommends a time-out “to conduct a final assessment that the correct patient, site, and procedure are identified…. Some believe that it is important to conduct the time-out before anesthesia for several reasons, including involvement of a patient.
Medical malpractice is “an act, lack of action, or omission by a healthcare provider that deviates from accepted standards of practice which results in an injury to a patient.” Hospital protocols and accreditation board recommendations make it easier to define what those “accepted standards of practice” are.
The Rarity of Dramatic Surgical Mistakes
“Wrong-site, wrong-procedure, wrong-patient errors” (WPSEs) are termed “never events” by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Never events” are errors that should never occur unless there are “serious underlying safety problems.”
WPSEs only occur in approximately 1 out of 112,000 surgical procedures—or only one error per hospital every five to 10 years.
Who is Responsible?
Medical malpractice lawsuits may be filed against:
- Medical facilities
- Pharmaceutical companies
- Medical device manufacturers
For a medical malpractice lawsuit to succeed, you must be able to prove that:
- The medical practitioner or facility failed to act in a manner in which a reasonably skilled and knowledgeable healthcare professional would have
- The actions (or lack of appropriate actions) taken by that individual or facility directly caused the harm done to the patient
Damages may be awarded for:
- Physical and mental pain
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium (the pain suffered by spouse or family members of a person who was injured or killed)
- Medical bills
- Lost income due to missed work
In the St. Vincent Hospital case, neither of the two patients died because of the surgeon’s mistake. But if a patient did die as a result of medical malpractice, his or her heirs may be awarded:
- Compensation for damages that occurred from the time of the malpractice up until the patient’s death
- Family’s future economic loss due to the death
Medical Malpractice in Indiana
Medical malpractice laws can vary from state to state. Indiana is one state that has a medical malpractice cap. This means that there is a maximum amount that any patient can collect.
In Indiana, the medical malpractice cap rose from $1.25 million to $1.65 million in 2017. It’s set to increase again to $1.8 million beginning in 2019.
Medical malpractice claims are also subject to the statute of limitations, meaning a lawsuit must be started within a certain time frame. In Indiana, victims or their families must start a lawsuit within two years of when the alleged medical malpractice occurred or was discovered.
Indiana also imposes limits on how much a physician found guilty of medical malpractice must pay in damages. Physicians are responsible for the first $250,000 awarded in damages to any one patient, but are not liable for paying more than $750,000 total in any one year. For awards over $250,000, the state has a Patients’ Compensation Fund which pays for the remaining amount not covered by the physician.
Along with 35 other states, Indiana has apology laws that allow physicians and other medical practitioners to express sympathy to patients without their apologies being counted as admissions of fault.
Help from an Indiana Medical Malpractice Attorney
You may not have had your kidney removed by mistake, but medical malpractice can occur right here in Indiana. If you’ve been a victim of medical malpractice, call Hensley Legal Group for a free, no-obligation consultation, and let us see if we can help with your case.