Medical malpractice in North Carolina is defined as a medical error that causes harm or injury to a patient. John Hopkins patient safety experts estimate that more than 250,000 U.S. deaths occur yearly due to medical errors. Medical malpractice lawsuits are often the result of these mistakes, some of which happen in the operating room.
Surgical tools left inside the body
Leaving surgical tools inside a patient’s body is one of the most dangerous forms of medical malpractice. Retained surgical items can cause pain, infection, discomfort, bloating or death.
The American Society of Anesthesiologists estimates 4,500 to 6,000 cases of retained surgical items occur yearly. Sponges are the number one item left inside patients, but clamps and retractors are also high on the list. Hospitals aren’t required to report how often their healthcare providers make this mistake.
Some medical facilities require surgery room personnel to follow procedures to prevent this mistake. For instance, personnel might have to count the number of surgical tools present before and after surgery.
Wrong-site surgery, wrong procedure or wrong-patient surgery are all forms of a surgical error.
A surgical mix-up can have long-lasting consequences on a patient’s life. In 2021, doctors at a clinic in Austria amputated a patient’s right leg when it was the left leg set for amputation. The error caused the patient to lose both legs, as doctors still had to amputate the correct leg after discovering the mistake.
A medical malpractice claim requires proof that negligent healthcare caused harm or injury. The statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases in North Carolina is three years from the date of the injury or treatment. There are exceptions for cases involving foreign objects left inside the body.