Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor, dentist, therapist, nurse, or other medical professional fails to competently perform his or her medical duties and as a result the patient is injured. Sadly, medical malpractice is a significant problem leaving thousands of patients injured or dead. In 2012 31% of medical malpractice victims died while 19% of the victims suffered significant, permanent injuries. Any medical mistake is terrifying as the results can be devastating. Some cases, however, are particularly shocking.
1. Surgeon Bypasses Wrong Artery
In 1998 after experiencing burning in his chest after light physical exertion, comedian Dana Carvey of Saturday Night Live fame underwent double-bypass surgery at Marin General Hospital, Greenbrae, California. The procedure was performed by Dr. Elias Hanna. It initially appeared as if the surgery went well. However, 2 months later Carvey began to experience the same symptoms he had prior to the surgery. He then consulted with Dr. Neal Eigler of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Carvey was shocked when Dr. Eigler informed him that Dr. Hanna had bypassed the wrong artery. Eigler acknowledge the error and cited over 30,000 successful bypass surgeries that he performed. He referred to his error in Carvey’s case as an “honest mistake.” Carvey sued Eigler and reportedly received a settlement of $7.5 million.
2. Surgeon removes Wrong Testicle
Diagnosed with metastatic testicular cancer in his left testicle in 1989, 47-year old Benjamin Houghton underwent chemotherapy. However, in 2007 he began to experience pain and shrinkage in that testicle. His doctors recommended surgery to remove the left testicle. Dr. John T. Leppert, a resident, performed the procedure at West Los Angeles VA Medical Center. Unfortunately, Leppert removed the right, healthy testicle. Houghton file a medical malpractice lawsuit, demanding $200,000.
3. Doctors ignore Ill Patient
Emergency rooms located in large cities are notorious for making patients wait for hours before being treated. Typically, however, patients with acute symptoms are moved to the front of the line and are treated fairly quickly. This was not the case for Esmin Green. In 2008 Green visited the emergency room in Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn New York. Green waited in the emergency room for nearly 24 hours when she finally collapsed, convulsing on the emergency room floor. Witnesses reported that hospital employees observed Green on the floor in distress, but did nothing. Videotape evidence shows that Green lay on the floor for an hour. She eventually died on the floor of the emergency room. For Green’s wrongful death, the City of New York reached a financial settlement with her family of $2 million.
4. Surgeon amputates Wrong Leg
In 1995 due to complications related to diabetes, Willie King was scheduled to have a leg amputated. Unfortunately, the surgeons started to remove the wrong leg. By the time they realize their error, it was too late to save the leg and it had to be removed. King received $1.5 million as a result of the botched procedure.
The financial awards that victims and their families receive as a result of medical mistakes are sometimes well over $1 million. While part of the settlement may be to reimburse the victim for medical expenses, a large part of such awards are for “pain and suffering.” Some feel that such large awards are justified based on the physical and emotional anguish that medical errors cause victims and their families. Many others feel that such large pain and suffering awards are excessive. As a result, several states have passed legislation placing caps on medical malpractice noneconomic awards. Do you agree that there should be caps on medical malpractice awards?