Surgery and Unwanted Souvenirs

A Guttlaw Report TM

Souvenirs are things all of us want to bring home from vacation, but souvenirs from surgery are a whole different matter. When a physician or a hospital staff member leaves something inappropriate inside us during surgery, the consequences can range from the merely painful to the truly catastrophic.

"How often does this happen?"

A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine estimated that there are more than 1500 cases annually in which clamps, sponges, screws, surgical instruments and other inappropriate items were left in surgical patients. These in turn caused unnecessary postoperative pain, infection, damage to organs and, in many cases, the need for additional serious surgery.

"My surgery was 3 years ago, but I only found out about the clamp when they did surgery last month. Can I still sue?"

Generally speaking, medical negligence or malpractice claims in Ohio may only be brought within one year of the last date of treatment, or from when the malpractice could, or should have been discovered, whichever is later. So, if after surgery you began to have severe abdominal pain, developed an infection, and were treated with antibiotics for six months in order to deal with the infection, before it was discovered that a surgical sponge had left inside you, then the statute of limitations would not run until one year after the date when the sponge was discovered. The reason is that you, as the injured party, had no reasonable way to know that the misplaced sponge was the cause of your problem. Since you could not have reasonably discovered the sponge earlier, the law allows you to file suit up to one year after that discovery.

On the other hand, if an x-ray disclosed a clamp mistakenly left inside you two days after surgery, and you were told about it at that time, then you would have one year from that date in which to file your claim.

"How do I know whether I have a case?"

Evaluating whether malpractice has occurred requires a trained team of dedicated medical and legal professionals. At Rubin Guttman & Associates, L.P.A., we have been obtaining justice for the victims of motor vehicle accidents, products liability, and medical negligence for over 32 years. There's never any charge for an initial consultation, so please feel free to make an appointment for a case evaluation.

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