In an out-of-state case, a senior citizen aged 89 years old underwent open heart surgery along with a bypass and heart valve replacement at a hospital. Open heart surgery is literally that-the patient's heart is opened up and the surgery is performed on the internal structures of the heart. So it is a really intense, risky, and dangerous surgery because the blood flow has to be rerouted or, as posted recently, surgeons use hyperthermia to elongate the time they have.
Three days after the surgery, doctors realized the sponge was still inside and attempted to remove it. However, the patient died of bleeding complications in the subsequent surgery to remove the sponge. The hospital maintained that the patient died due to his poor health condition, and it will be interesting to see what the jury finds considering it is pretty conclusive that he died on the table during the second surgery to remove the sponge negligently left behind.
A few months ago, I had an extensive blog post on foreign objects and explained them in some detail. What is interesting is that cases like this are NOT really that uncommon. In fact, there are about 1,500 cases a year where a something was left inside the patient. Granted, there are a lot of surgeries so the percentage of surgeries with something left in the patient is probably miniscule. Yet, just that it still happens is disheartening, especially when it results in the death of the patient.
Hospitals do have procedures for counting sponges, tracking codes, precautionary x-rays, and other special methods to keep track of equipment. Yet, when there are humans involved there will always be errors no matter how careful you can be; we aren't perfect and we can't be expected to be.
It is important to know that this case was just filed, so the hospital and doctors are NOT guilty yet; their liability hasn't been determined. All that has happened was the ball is now rolling and the litigation process will begin. But this case reminds me of one that happened years ago at St. Francis in Poughkeepsie; in fact it is quite a famous case. In Kambat v. St. Francis (http://www.law.cornell.edu/nyctap/I97_0015.htm), the physicians left a sponge inside of a patient during a surgery too. When they realized the error after she had continued stomach pain after months went by, she had an x-ray and underwent another surgery where the pad was found. However, the pad had created an abscess in her bowels, which ultimately resulted in her death. The case is a bit complicated as to the theory of liability, but in the end the hospital was found liable for the damages to Ms. Kambat and her family. As for the case just filed here, I do not think the facts are so drastically different than Kambat actually, and I wouldn't be surprised if the hospital and surgical team were found to be liable.
But what do you think? I would love to hear from you! Leave a comment or I also welcome your phone call on my toll-free cell at 1-866-889-6882 or you can drop me an e-mail at [email protected] . You are always welcome to request my FREE book, The Seven Deadly Mistakes of Malpractice Victims, at the home page of my website at www.protectingpatientrights.com.