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

Did a behind schedule surgeon cause a patient's death?

Residents of Pennsylvania may be interested to learn of case involving a laparoscopic cholecystectomy. In 2010, a Georgia surgeon performed a laparoscopic cholecystectomy on a 67-year-old woman. The patient had a great deal of scar tissue, and the surgeon decided to change from the laparoscopic option to an open surgical procedure. Once the surgeon was involved in the open surgical procedure, he found massive bleeding from a laceration in her portal vein. A vascular surgeon was called, but the patient had suffered significant blood loss and she died a short time later in the intensive care unit. Medical malpractice attorneys would later become involved in the case.

The surgeon denies any wrongdoing. He contends that the initial laparoscopic procedure was made more involved by scar tissue blocking the gallbladder. He does admit, however, that not using the Verness needle to open the abdominal cavity for visualization was a departure from standard procedure. A defense expert testified that the surgeon's actions were not a violation of the usual standard of care. He also added that it was very unusual for a surgeon to skip inserting a Veress needle.

The patient's children filed a lawsuit against the surgeon and his practice, alleging wrongful death. The children contended that the surgeon was running behind schedule, and in his haste to finish, inserted a trocar without first inserting a Veress needle into the patient's abdominal cavity, which is a step usually used to create space around the organs and allows for visualization before using the trocar. The case was settled by a medical malpractice attorney and jury deliberations for a settlement of more than $1 million.

When a surgical error leads to a patient's death in Pennsylvania, the family may wish to allow a medical malpractice attorney to review the case. An attorney may carefully review the medical records and advise the family if there is any malpractice involved. An attorney may also work to negotiate settlements that compensate the surviving family members.

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

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