Outpatient Surgery Malpractice Lawsuit: Compensation for Injuries & Fatalities
Outpatient surgery centers provide same-day surgical care to patients that want to undergo procedures and leave the facility in a single day. For patients, going to an ambulatory surgery center (ASC) is significantly more convenient and less expensive than undergoing surgery at a hospital.
However, ambulatory surgery centers are usually physician-owned and licensed to perform minor procedures. Hence, they are not as heavily regulated as hospitals. Mistakes can occur without careful regulation and standardization and cause severe injuries or even death to patients.
Were you or a loved one injured in an outpatient surgery center? If so, the personal injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC can help you seek compensation through a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Contact our medical malpractice lawyers at (888) 424-5757 for a free consultation.
What Are the Risks of Outpatient Surgery?
Undergoing a surgical procedure comes with inherent risks, whether you are at a hospital or an ambulatory surgical center. However, hospitals follow stringent state and federal regulations, unlike most outpatient surgery centers that operate under differing state laws of varied strictness.
As a result, many ASCs lack quality measures and don’t always report incidents. On the other hand, hospitals must report many aspects of operation, including surgical errors and illness outbreaks.
Additional factors contributing to outpatient surgery risks include:
- Inadequate Training and Experience: Medical professionals at ambulatory surgery centers typically perform outpatient procedures on relatively healthy patients. Patients that don’t pass the health screening, such as those that are obese or have complicated illnesses, go to hospitals instead. Hence, staff members at ASCs may have less experience and training to address surgery complications.
- Lack of Equipment: Some outpatient surgery centers don’t have readily available safety equipment, unlike hospitals where it is a standard. A patient can suffer severe injuries or death if an operation goes awry and the medical team has no tools or equipment to remedy the situation.
- Poor Infection Control: In 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) studied 68 centers in three states. The report revealed that 46 centers had at least one lapse in infection control. Common errors included failing to wear gloves, reprocess equipment properly, and using single-use vials for only one patient.
Joan Rivers' Wrongful Death
These risk factors were present in comedian Joan Rivers’ wrongful death case. In 2014, Rivers went to a Manhattan ambulatory surgery center, complaining of a sore throat and hoarse voice. The team performed a laryngoscopy wherein a doctor examined the patient’s throat using a flexible tube with a camera.
The tube caused further swelling in Rivers’ throat during the procedure, eventually cutting off her air supply. According to the Department of Health and Human Services report, the doctors did not notice Rivers’ distress immediately, nor was the doctor who performed the laryngoscopy allowed to practice medicine at the surgery center.
Furthermore, the same-day surgery center did not have a drug that relaxes throat muscles that would’ve allowed the insertion of a breathing tube, and none of the doctors in the surgery center were trained to perform an emergency airway puncture.
By the time the paramedics arrived after the surgery center called 911, Rivers had gone into cardiac arrest. The hospital removed her from life support after seven days.
Joan Rivers’ wrongful death spurred concerns regarding patient safety at outpatient surgery centers.
What is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice occurs when a health care professional fails to adhere to the regulations set by the medical community. In the context of outpatient surgery, a facility may commit medical malpractice if it fails to deliver services within the expected standards of care, such as when:
- A surgeon operates on the wrong site or amputates the wrong limb
- A doctor fails to acquire informed consent from the patient before operating, even if the surgery performed is successful
- A doctor discharges a patient too early or fails to monitor for potential complications
- A staff member fails to sterilize equipment properly or uses a single-use medicine or tool on more than one patient
- An anesthesiologist administering too little or too much anesthesia or injecting anesthesia into the wrong body part
Medical Malpractice Injuries in Outpatient Surgery Centers
Surgical malpractice, medication errors, poor staff oversight, and a lack of safety procedures and equipment can lead to the following injuries:
- Shock: Shock is a life-threatening condition caused by a reduction in blood flow, thus reducing oxygen to different body parts and leading to cellular and tissue hypoxia (low oxygen levels). The most common cause of shock during surgical procedures is hemorrhage (excessive bleeding).
- Hemorrhage: Surgical negligence can lead to rapid bleeding from an injury site, increasing the risk of shock and death.
- Infections: Common medical mistakes in ASCs, such as improper handwashing and poor equipment sterilization, can cause bacteria to enter a surgery wound, leading to an infection. An infection can delay recovery, damage organs, and cause death without prompt treatment.
- Pulmonary Conditions: Same-day surgery centers often allow patients to go home on the same day as their surgery. However, insufficient monitoring increases the risk of pulmonary issues, such as pneumonia or aspiration (a condition caused by inhaling food, blood, or water).
Can Patients Hold Ambulatory Surgery Centers Liable for Injuries and Death?
Like hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers have patients sign informed consent forms before procedures. An informed consent form should include the following:
- A description of the procedure
- Possible risks and complications
- Purpose and desired outcome of the procedure
- Potential alternatives
- Success rates
A surgery center must ask for the patient’s consent before performing a procedure, except in an emergency.
In some situations, signing a consent form may prevent you from filing a medical malpractice claim. However, agreeing to a procedure does not mean a medical professional won’t be liable for negligence. Surgery center patients can sue medical providers that commit errors that a reasonable professional in the same situation would not.
How to File a Medical Malpractice Claim
An injured person can file a legal claim against a medical facility or surgery center professional responsible for their injuries, emotional trauma, and other damages. Similarly, family members of a deceased patient can bring a claim against parties liable for their loved one’s passing.
To file a medical malpractice claim, you must prove the following are true:
- The defendant owed a duty of care to you. Every medical facility, including ambulatory surgery centers, must abide by federal and state laws, which require all professionals to act reasonably and prudently to avoid injuring patients.
- The defendant breached this duty of care. A medical facility or professional commits medical negligence if they ‘breach’ their legal duty by acting in a way that causes or creates a risk of harm to patients, e.g., failing to sterilize equipment, perform surgery correctly, prevent medical errors, etc.
- You or a loved one suffered a significant injury. You must prove that you sustained substantial physical, emotional, or financial harm from the defendant’s actions.
- The defendant’s negligence directly led to your losses. Additionally, you must show that the defendant’s surgical errors directly caused your damages, e.g., medical bills, emotional trauma, etc.
Who is Liable for Surgical Mistakes at Same-Day Surgery Centers?
A medical mistake can arise from the negligence of one or more persons in a surgery center, including:
- Physicians or surgeons
- Sanitation staff
Regardless of who is directly at fault for the medical error, the ambulatory surgical center is liable for the injured patient’s damages. Liability usually stems from a facility’s failure to hire competent surgeons, standardize medical procedures, and provide proper emergency equipment.
What Damages Can You Recover from a Negligent Facility?
When you file a claim against the at-fault surgical center, you could recover financial compensation for the following losses:
- Medical Bills: Your out-of-pocket expenses for emergency transportation, hospitalization, medication, additional surgery, and future medical care costs.
- Disability: Your damages for mobility aids, physical rehabilitation, loss of earning potential, and other related losses if you become disabled due to the incident.
- Pain and Suffering: Compensation for physical and emotional injuries, such as physical pain, mental trauma, emotional anguish, etc.
- Loss of Quality of Life: Compensation for enjoyment or quality of life lost due to the incident.
- Lost Wages: The salaries, wages, benefits, and other forms of income you’ve lost while recovering from your injury or caring for an injured loved one.
- Wrongful Death: Compensation for funeral and burial costs, pre-death medical care expenses, loss of consortium, and other related damages if your loved one dies.
- Punitive Damages: Additional compensation used to punish defendants for gross negligence and deter similar harmful behavior in the future.
Do You Need to File a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?
A same-day surgery facility typically has insurance coverage to limit its liability in cases arising from negligence. Similarly, surgeons have professional liability insurance for the same purpose.
Our experienced attorneys will negotiate with the outpatient center and its insurance provider to ensure you receive fair compensation.
Most medical malpractice claims end in settlements with the defendant agreeing to pay a sum to the plaintiff. However, malpractice lawsuits arise when:
- The same-day surgery center denies responsibility for the incident
- The defendant’s insurance company refuses to make a fair offer or rejects the claim
- Negotiations have stalled
Patient Safety Tips for Outpatient Surgery
Same-day surgery centers offer many operations, including hernia repairs, appendix removals, gastric bypasses, and cosmetic surgery. Many patients choose to undergo surgery at ASCs to enjoy lower costs and better convenience than surgery performed at a hospital, especially individuals with limited insurance coverage.
However, not all same-day surgery centers follow the standards essential for patient safety. Thus, if you need a procedure performed at an outpatient surgery center, remember the following tips:
- Check the facility’s license and certification status
- Ask for the providers’ qualifications, especially if the surgical procedure involves anesthesia
- Discuss your health, family history, medications, and other pertinent information with the surgical center
- Ensure the ambulatory surgery center has equipment and medications to address a medical emergency
Consider going to a hospital if the facility or its doctors do not meet the proper qualifications
Discuss Your Case With an Experienced Medical Malpractice Attorney
Whether it’s a simple operation or major surgery, going under the knife comes with natural risks. However, it’s healthcare professionals’ responsibility to mitigate these risks and address problems if they arise.
Ambulatory surgery centers are convenient and less expensive. However, previous cases prove they pose significant risks to patient health and safety. If you or a loved one suffered a serious injury in an ambulatory surgery center, you could be entitled to financial compensation.
Contact our medical malpractice attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC by calling (888) 424-5757 or use the contact form for a free case evaluation.
All confidential or sensitive information you share with our legal team will remain private under an attorney-client relationship.
Our law firm handles all accepted medical malpractice cases on a contingency fee basis. This agreement ensures you do not pay our legal fees unless we win your case.