Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

New trial ordered concerning surgical error

The testimony of an expert witness from Pennsylvania ultimately resulted in a new trial being ordered in a medical malpractice claim. Instead of limiting his testimony to the facts of the case, he began elaborating about how medical malpractice cases resulted in unnecessary tests being administered and health costs being driven up.

The case concerned an 11-year old boy who was forced to endure a number of additional spinal surgeries due to an earlier surgical error. In that earlier surgery, the boy's surgeon apparently failed to obtain x-ray images that would have shown a benign spinal tumor that could then have been removed and thus necessitated additional surgeries.

The expert witness had testified that he would have performed more radiological tests than the boy's surgeon, even if such tests had been unnecessary. However, the reason why he said he would do this was in order to practice what is called "defensive medicine" to avoid a medical malpractice claim.

The boy's attorney objected to this testimony as being irrelevant to the actual medical malpractice that may have taken place. Though the trial court overruled the attorney's objection, the state Supreme Court found what the expert stated may have misled the jury.

Whether such testimony did or did not mislead the jury is open to conjecture, but the presumption continues to be made that too many medical malpractice cases are being tried. What such critics fail to understand is the extreme pain and suffering that a victim of medical malpractice must endure due to surgical errors or failure to diagnose particular conditions.

If the above allegations are true, a young boy had to go under the knife again and again for a condition that could easily have been resolved the first time surgery was performed. In certain circumstances, victims of medical malpractice are bedridden for the rest of the life while suffering unendurable pain. In other cases, patients die due to mistakes made by the surgeons.

Such medical malpractice cannot be tolerated.

Source: Hartford Courant, "Supreme Court Orders New Malpractice Trial Based on Expert Witness' Comments About Health Care Costs," by Edmund H. Mahoney, April 30, 2012

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