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One of the most common reasons that people sue for medical malpractice after experiencing bad surgical outcomes is because they weren’t properly informed of the risks of their surgeries. For example, if a person develops a serious infection after surgery and has to remain hospitalized for days or weeks longer than expected, they may want to sue if their surgeon didn’t tell them that was a possibility.
But patients also develop serious and potentially life-threatening complications after surgeries where they were informed of the risks. These patients often face major expenses and damages, and they often want to file medical malpractice claims too in order to afford their medical bills. Doctors, surgeons, and hospitals may believe that informing patients of risks releases them from all liability, but that’s not always the case.
If you or someone you love suffered a serious complication after surgery and you were informed of the risks, here’s what you need to know about filing a malpractice claim.
In the world of consent, there’s a big difference between being verbally told of the risks you’re facing and being presented with them in writing—and then signing your name to show that you’re aware of them. When it comes to surgery, doctors, surgeons, and the hospitals and clinics they work for are supposed to handle risk notification in writing to protect themselves if anything goes wrong.
However, that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes, doctors and surgeons only verbally discuss risks, and they may gloss over them, use jargon and medical terminology that patients don’t understand, or fail to answer questions from their patients. In these cases, there’s no proof that patients were informed or understood the risks, and that fact can play a big role in their malpractice claims.
Even when they put the risks in writing, doctors and surgeons must ensure that their patients are capable of understanding those risks. Sometimes, patients are informed of their risks while in altered mental states due to painful injuries, illnesses, or medications. They may not have a trusted family member or friend with them, and they may sign consent forms after being pressured to do so by doctors or nurses without fully understanding what they are signing.
In these cases, doctors and surgeons may need to find alternative ways to help patients understand their risks, such as waiting for their cognition to improve or discussing the risks with family members and friends who can better communicate with their patients or who have medical power of attorney and the authority to accept the risks on the patients’ behalf.
If a doctor or surgeon informs you that your biggest risks are infection, bleeding, and nerve damage, but you suffer a different major complication, you may be able to sue for medical malpractice—especially if the complication was caused by negligence.
For example, surgeons typically don’t warn patients about the risk of wrong-site surgeries or left behind surgical tools, but those mistakes can and do happen. So, while the patients were informed of normal risks, they weren’t informed of the complications they personally incurred. Had they known about those risks, they not have consented.
If you or a loved one were harmed during surgery and were informed of your risks whether verbally or in writing, you may still have a case for getting compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
At Nurenberg, Paris, Heller & McCarthy, we know that informed consent isn’t always equal, and some doctors and surgeons don’t take the necessary steps to ensure that patients their families understand the risks or are even made fully aware of them.
When you contact us, we’ll trace back your doctor or surgeon’s steps to determine if and when you were informed of potential risks. Then, we’ll determine if that information was enough for you to give informed consent. Get in touch with our Ohio medical malpractice lawyers today for a free consultation.
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