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Spinal Surgery: An Illustrative Surgery Malpractice Case

Jeffrey H. Dover
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Atlanta Auto Accident and Medical Malpractice Attorney

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4/21/2011
Jeffrey H. Dover
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In this example of surgery malpractice, a physical act caused an injury, but it was the main surgeon's failure to obtain patient's consent prior to the surgery that led to damages being awarded to the plaintiff.

A 65-year-old woman with back and leg pain decided to consult a neurosurgeon. After discussing the woman's complaints, the neurosurgeon recommended that a spinal fusion procedure be performed in hopes of resolving the problem. Her spinal surgery was performed by the neurosurgeon and an assistant surgeon. During her operation, the assistant surgeon pierced one of the patient's major nerves while driving a bone screw into her spine.

Following the operation, the patient awoke to severe pain in her right leg and found she could no longer raise her right foot. The neurosurgeon re-operated on her the following day to remove the screw, but it was too late - the patient experienced permanent injuries. She now has permanent partial leg paralysis and foot drop.

The patient filed suit against the neurosurgeon and his practice group.

Though the assistant surgeon was the one who committed the negligence in piercing a nerve in her spine, that act may not have constituted medical malpractice. Instead, the patient alleged that she never gave consent to the neurosurgeon to have anyone else operate on her besides him. Because the neurosurgeon didn't have the patient consent to having a second surgeon operating during the procedure, and it was the assistant surgeon who was negligent, the claim was awarded to the plaintiff.

The plaintiff's expert witness explained that the assistant surgeon's act was negligent and directly led to her injuries. Following this, the witness confirmed that the neurosurgeon breached the standard of care in not obtaining consent from the patient for the assistant surgeon's presence. Both surgeons were found liable, and substantial damages were awarded to the injured woman.


Category: Medical Malpractice


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