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Rushed doctor's decisions may have led to patient's death

New Jersey surgical patients may be interested in the settlement of a recent wrongful death lawsuit against a surgeon and his employer, Georgia Surgical Associates, PC. On July 14, 2010, a 67-year-old woman went into St. Joseph's Hospital in Atlanta for a non-invasive laparoscopic cholecystectomy. The surgeon made some unusual decisions during the procedure and the woman ultimately died in ICU shortly after the surgery. The woman's adult children filed a medical malpractice and wrongful death suit and settled with the defendants for over $1 million during jury deliberations.

According to court records, midway through the surgery, the surgeon chose to abandon the laparoscopic procedure in favor of an open surgery because of complications from extensive scar tissue. During the open surgery, he faced extensive bleeding and a tear in the portal vein. He called in vascular surgeon to repair the tear, but at that point the patient had already lost a significant amount of blood. She later died in the ICU.

In the suit, the patient's children claimed that the surgeon skipped a crucial step in the open surgery because he was running behind schedule. They say that he should have inserted a Veress needle into her abdominal cavity to create space and provide better visualization. However, the surgeon inserted a trocar without first inserting the Veress needle. During the trial, an expert defense witness testified that it is extremely rare for a surgeon to choose not to insert a Veress needle.

As much as surgical technology has improved, many of the most important decisions in surgery are made by humans and are thus vulnerable to human error and poor judgement. As this incident shows, even routine, non-invasive surgery can be fatal if the surgeon makes bad decisions. Families who have lost loved ones to medical malpractice may be entitled to compensation for their medical bills, final expenses, pain, suffering and loss of the victim's earnings. An attorney with medical malpractice and wrongful death experience could evaluate the incident and provide recommendations for moving forward.

Source: Outpatient Surgery Magazine, "Did Rushing Cause This Fatal Surgical Error?", Dan O'Connor, May 21, 2013

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