Stitches or sutures are basic in surgical procedures. No matter which part of a patient’s body is operated on, that part will have to be sutured before a surgery can be declared completed. In a hysterectomy, stitches are made at the top of the patient’s vagina after the removal of the uterus and the cervix.
Sutures are required for the proper healing of the treated skin, organ, nerve or tissue. Before the introduction of the da Vinci robot in the year 2000, all surgeries (called open surgeries) and surgical site-suturing were done by surgeons; thus, any error that would occur would be tagged as human error.
Improper suturing is a serious medical error that can cause the incision site to reopen or be infected; either way, it means severe harm and pain for the patient. This medical error is usually a result of using the wrong instruments or lack of training; in certain occasions, it may be a case of negligence on the part of the surgeon. Its result can vary from tissue or organ damage, paralysis, scarring or disfigurement, coma and need for a corrective surgery, which means additional medical cost, great pain and trauma.
The last four results indicated above were ones experienced by Michelle, who underwent a da Vinci robot-assisted hysterectomy on February 2, 2009, (hysterectomy is a surgical procedure that would remove the whole or a part of the womb). Michelle underwent the surgery at the recommendation of her Obstetrics and Gynecology in order to remove the fibroids (benign or non-cancerous tumors) that grew in her uterine wall and which caused her agonizing pains, especially during her periods.
She stayed two days at the hospital after the procedure and was advised to have a four to six weeks recovery period at home. Five weeks after the surgery, as Zarick was using the restroom, she felt like something “popped” in her body. As she looked down, she was shocked to see her intestines protruding from her organ.
Surgery is usually the last treatment opted for by doctors if all attempts to remedy a patient’s health complaints, including medication, fail. Though a sensitive and risky procedure, a patient would most likely trust his/her doctor and the surgical team, knowing that they have been trained and have the capability to perform whatever is necessary to make him/her better. Thus, any mistake that may result from the surgery may be considered a violation of this trust and a grave failure to comply with the standard quality care that a patient has a right to require and expect.
What happened to Michelle was a surgical error, and a surgical error is a serious medical mistake. Based from a list from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, surgical error include: wrong-site surgery; wrong-person surgery; incorrect surgical procedure; improper suturing; accidental puncture or laceration; foreign bodies left inside a patient’s body; removal of wrong organ; complications of anesthesia; post-operative hemorrhage or hematoma, physiologic and metabolic derangement, respiratory failure, or pulmonary embolism; or wound dehiscence (a surgical complication wherein a wound ruptures along a surgical suture. This can be due to age, obesity, diabetes, poor knotting, or post-surgery trauma due to the wound); and, wrongful death due to complications from negligent surgery.
Though preventable, the number of surgical errors goes beyond 4,000 every year. This explains the thousands of lawsuits filed against doctors and hospitals each year by injured surgery patients.
The law firm Schuler, Halvorson, Weisser, Zoeller & Overbeck, P.A., says that “Complications during surgery are rather uncommon incidents, however when they do occur, the consequences can be significant. Negligent surgeons are capable of performing life-altering surgical errors that may leave a patient permanently injured or in need of expensive corrective treatment. Patients should be able to trust that their surgeon is a competent medical professional who can ensure that errors will not be made.” When this is not the case, then patients, with legal help from seasoned medical malpractice lawyers of personal injury lawyers, can hold the negligent medical staff responsible for their injury and sufferings, as well as for all other damages that will result from the harm done.