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Wrong-site surgical procedure leads to medical malpractice suit

These blogs are posted on behalf of Seidel, Cohen, Hof & Reid, LLC, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the firm or its attorneys. The information presented in this blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice.

A 67-year-old woman has filed suit against a surgeon who operated on the wrong side of her skull. The case has made headlines across the nation, and serves as a warning to Pennsylvania residents of the dangers of placing full trust in the competency of a medical professional. The medical malpractice suit was filed after the patient discovered that this was not the first time that the surgeon had operated on the wrong part of a patient's body.

The woman in this case had consented to a surgical procedure that involved drilling a hole into her skull to enable a surgeon to place a small sponge as a buffer between a nerve and the skull itself. The procedure is done to alleviate pain caused by a medical condition known as trigeminal neuralgia. The condition is also known as the 'suicide disease' because the pain it brings leads sufferers to contemplate almost anything to end the agony.

The woman did everything in her power to research the surgeon before the procedure. She searched online and found that he had been chief of staff at the hospital where the operation was to take place, and that he served on the hospital's Board of Governors. What she was not able to discover was that he had previously been fined and disciplined for another case in which he operated on the wrong part of a patient's body.

The procedure did ease the woman's pain. However, she was left with vestibular nerve damage on both sides of her skull. That condition is inoperable, and she now experiences extreme spells of dizziness and vertigo. She is no longer able to live alone.

As this medical malpractice suit progresses, it is hoped that the victim is able to recover a settlement or judgment that will help her cover the cost of her medical treatment and allow her to afford the continuing care needed to maintain a positive quality of life. For Pennsylvania residents, the case reminds us that medical professionals are not infallible. Care should be taken to research a surgeon to the best of one's ability.

Source: HeraldTribune.com, "Woman sues neurosurgeon over wrong-site operation," Donna Koehn, March 16, 2013

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