What Happens When a Surgeon Operates on the Wrong Patient?

One of the most egregious–and preventable–forms of medical malpractice is surgical error. We expect surgeons and their staff to act as competent, well-trained professionals. But even these experts sometimes make the most basic of mistakes, such as performing an operation on the wrong patient.

Iowa Man Wins Multi-Million Dollar Verdict After Unnecessary Prostate Surgery

It may sound ridiculous in 2019 that a surgeon would not know which patient to operate on, but it happens more commonly than you might think. For example, a man in Iowa recently received a multi-million dollar medical malpractice award after surgeons mistakenly performed prostate cancer surgery on him.
According to a report in the Des Moines Register, a pathologist at the Iowa Clinic “mixed up slides” of the plaintiff’s “non-cancerous tissue samples” with that of another patient who did, in fact, have prostate cancer. As a result of the pathologist’s mistake, doctors incorrectly diagnosed the plaintiff with prostate cancer and performed surgery to remove his perfectly healthy prostate gland.
The surgery left the plaintiff “impotent and incontinent,” according to the Register. Not surprisingly, he sued the Iowa Clinic for medical malpractice.
Obviously, the defense could not seriously contest the issue of liability–there was simply no justification for performing medically unnecessary surgery on the wrong patient. But the defense still went to trial on the question of damages. The plaintiff’s original lawsuit asked for $15 million in compensation. The Iowa Clinic’s defense attorney told the Register that was not a “reasonable” amount and asked the jury to limit damages to just $750,000.
In fact, the Register noted that at trial, the defense maintained the plaintiff “didn’t deserve so much money” because he was in his late 60s and could still “mow his yard, attend the State Fair and pick up his granddaughters from school.” But the as the plaintiff’s personal injury attorney said in rebuttal, removing the prostate effectively meant his client had “lost his manhood.”
The jury apparently sympathized. It ultimately returned a verdict awarding $12.25 million.

Contact the Cleveland Medical Malpractice Lawyers at Tittle & Perlmuter

Now, it should be noted that Iowa is not Ohio. In this state, there are strict caps on “non-economic damages” for medical malpractice victims. Non-economic damages refer to things like pain and suffering, which cannot be precisely measured in dollar amounts. Ohio law typically limits non-economic damages to $250,000 or 3 times the amount of economic damages awarded, whichever is greater.
But in cases where the victim suffered a “permanent and substantial physical deformity, loss of use of a limb, or loss of a bodily organ system,” the non-economic damages cap is no more than $500,000.
Of course, no amount of money can ever make up for the physical and psychological scars created when a surgeon performs unnecessary surgery on you as the result of an obvious medical mistake. That said, you still have the right to your day in court against the negligent healthcare providers. Contact the offices of Tittle & Perlmuter today at (216) 308-1522 if you need to speak with an experienced Cleveland medical malpractice lawyer.

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