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Did My Doctor Know Enough to Perform That Surgery, or Was It Malpractice?

While the vast majority of surgical procedures performed in the United States go smoothly, there are the occasional problems. To those left suffering from the results of those errors, it can leave many questions. One of the most haunting can be whether the doctor knew enough to perform the surgery.

Surgical malpractice is a form of negligence, where a doctor’s mistake (or the error of other medical staff) results in an injury to a patient. The legal standard for medical malpractice is that the medical personnel’s conduct deviated from the standard of care in the medical community. To establish that this is the case, a lawsuit will have to show that the personnel’s actions were the direct and proximate cause of the harm suffered by the patient. No actual harm, or only a minor harm, will not be enough to file a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Medical personnel are all highly trained and very intelligent people. Unfortunately, nobody is born knowing everything, and new medical procedures are constantly developing. As a result, every medical professional has to do something for the first time at some point. In most cases, they get it right on the first go, but not always. While they are honing their technique, they can inadvertently harm patients. In other cases, the doctor or medical professional may simply never have the skill or knowledge to do what they were attempting.

If a doctor is trying something for the first time, is using an experimental technique, or is performing a procedure which he or she believes could be high risk, that doctor must disclose that fact and allow the patient to make an informed decision. Clear pre-operative communication with the patient is essential, and if that does not occur, it could be malpractice. After all, the patient has the right to know what is going to be done to his or her body, and should be able to decide whether to accept that risk or not. If the procedure is something experimental or with which the surgeon is less familiar, that should be disclosed. As part of the conversation, the medical professionals should cover:

• The nature of the surgery
• Reasonable alternatives to the proposed procedure
• Possible risks and side-effects
• Benefits the doctor seeks for the patient
• Legal obligation for informed consent

Of course, after that conversation is when the actual injury might occur. To avoid injuring a patient, medical professionals must:

• Have the training and experience necessary to safely perform the surgery
• Communicate effectively with surgical team members
• Perform surgery on the correct part of the body
• Not leave surgical tools inside the patient

Of course, there are a myriad of other things that must go right to prevent injury, but these are some of the most common causes of injury resulting in malpractice. Unfortunately, all too often, inexperienced, misinformed, or unskilled doctors perform surgery on the wrong site, perform unnecessary procedures, damage internal structures during the procedure, leave medical instruments within the patient, or allow an environment that results in infections and complications.

Given the complex nature of medical malpractice lawsuits, injured patients should never attempt to handle these disputes without legal representation. An experienced legal professional practicing in the field of medical malpractice will have seen similar situations and has the expertise to identify if medical personnel committed malpractice due to a surgeon’s lack of knowledge. To find a medical malpractice attorney in your area, you should visit and use the lawyer search function.

An experienced medical malpractice attorney will be able to find other medical professionals who can identify the source of your injury and its cause. Other doctors familiar with the procedure performed may be able to identify whether the injury resulted from lack of knowledge, common mistakes, or another cause. The attorney will also be able to find a medical professional experienced at testifying in court in order to establish the fact necessary to prevail on your cause of action.

Rather than following in the doctor’s footsteps by undertaking a lawsuit without the same level of knowledge and experience as the doctor’s lawyer, you should only pursue such disputes with the help of a knowledgeable attorney.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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