There are many stories about surgeons who have left instruments in patients’ bodies. Objects that have been introduced into the body of a patient for a temporary medical function that lasts only for the duration of the surgery and are intended to be removed once the procedure has been completed. These types of objects qualify as “foreign objects” if they are left behind. However, if the item left behind is placed in the patient with the intention that it will remain in the body to serve a continuing treatment purpose. These are known as “fixation devices.”
The distinction between foreign objections and fixation devices is important for both statute of limitations and proof purposes. If a foreign objection has been left inside a patient’s body, then its mere presence will usually entitle the victim to a finding of negligence. Examples of foreign objects include surgical clips, wire, forceps, scalpels, pads, gauze, or other tools.
In New York there is an alternative statute of limitations period which begins to run once the foreign object has been discovered. Therefore the plaintiff has two and a half years from the time of the incident or one year from discovery of the foreign object to commence a medical malpractice lawsuit.
It is not necessarily easy to prove a foreign object case. It can be difficult to prove what the object was, where it came from, or how it ended up in the body. If the patient has had several operations it may be difficult for the patient to prove during which operation the object was left in the body.
Foreign object cases can take a considerable amount of time to research and evaluate whether the object in the body was left negligently or if it was placed there intentionally and permanently. Unfortunately, when it comes to most foreign object cases, the object was placed there with the intention that it would remain in the patient’s body, but the patient’s body rejected the objected and a dangerous abscess or a deadly infection results.
If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of a foreign object left in the body, contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible to evaluate your case.
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