The autopsy of a 36-year-old Arizona man who died unexpectedly in the arms of his wife discovered plastic bags, packets of tomato ketchup and paper towels in his stomach and bowels. The man, who was recovering from a traumatic brain injury, would not have been able to ingest these items himself, and a lawsuit filed against the assisted living facility concerned resulted in an $11 million jury verdict. While these types of medical negligence are not common, they do occur often enough to merit concern.
Some medical errors are caused by mix-ups or miscommunication. A New York woman sued a fertility clinic after DNA tests revealed that she had been given sperm donated by a complete stranger rather than by her husband, and a Florida man filed a malpractice lawsuit in 1995 after surgeons amputated the wrong leg. The surgeon involved was subsequently fined and prohibited from practicing medicine for six months. The man was eventually paid more than $1.1 million.
Perhaps the most harrowing examples of surgical errors involve patients who are not properly sedated prior to surgery. A West Virginia man was aware and able to sense pain but unable to move or speak for 16 excruciating minutes as surgeons began a routine abdominal procedure. The man's torment ended when anesthesiologists finally administered the general anesthetic that he should have been given much earlier, but the experience left him seriously traumatized. He committed suicide less than two weeks after the botched surgery.
This kind of litigation often features defendants with deep pockets who are unwilling to admit that they made mistakes. To prevail in a medical malpractice case, personal injury attorneys must demonstrate that the care provided failed to meet standards that are generally accepted in the medical community. To accomplice this, attorneys may call upon medical professionals or other experts to closely review hospital records, policies, procedures and protocols.