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Attention Houston: jury awards patient $2M for surgical errors

As Houston readers can agree, people go to their doctors hoping they will help them feel better. But unfortunately, sometimes doctors can make things worse. This is exactly what happened to a man in another state who went in for back surgery. The surgeon botched his surgery so badly that he later sued for medical malpractice and was recently awarded $2 million.

In 2008, the man underwent surgery for removal of a herniated disc. The surgeon mistakenly cut into his major artery without anyone noticing. The man went into cardiac arrest 36 hours later and required three more surgeries. He suffered damage to the nerves that control his bladder and bowels. He also suffered brain damage.

The jury also awarded $50,000 to the man's former wife, in response to a claim that the worsened condition changed the husband's personality and ultimately destroyed the couple's marriage. The jury deliberated for less than three hours after hearing five days of testimony.

Doctors owe their patients a standard of care that represents the level of skill, expertise and care possessed and practiced by physicians in the same or similar community as the one they are treated in, and under similar situations. The standard of care for new doctors and those doctors who specialize in a practice area is determined by different methods. New doctors are now required to take "national board" exams, and doctor-specialists are subject to "board certifications." The result is that their standard practice of medicine is not dependent upon geographic locality.

When patients are dealing with surgical errors made by a careless surgeon or a negligent operating room staff, it is important to know what standard of care is applied. Those patients who go to their doctors in order to improve their health, but due to their doctor's negligence, come back worse than they were before, can be entitled to compensation.

Source: Insurance Journal, "New Mexico Jury Awards $2M For Botched Back Surgery," Sept. 11, 2012

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