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Surgical errors result in $776,000 malpractice award

South Carolina residents concerned about medical errors and hospital mistakes may be interested to learn that a South Dakota jury has awarded $776,000 for medical malpractice to a man who lost his wife of 15 years after a botched gallbladder removal. The defendant in the case, a Rapid City surgeon, has denied any wrongdoing, and he is expected to appeal the decision.

The woman underwent surgery to have her gallbladder removed in December 2010, and her health started to deteriorate soon afterwards. She was severely jaundiced due to a reduction in her liver function, and she was suffering a great deal of pain. After being hospitalized in May 2011, doctors discovered that surgical staples that were supposed to seal the duct that allows bile to travel from the gallbladder to the digestive system were instead blocking the liver's bile ducts. The surgeon denied that he had placed the staples there.

The staples were subsequently removed, but this came too late to prevent a diagnosis of end-stage liver disease. She was then placed on a liver transplant waiting list. The woman was moved to a nursing home in November 2012, and she was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease the following month. She died in August 2013 at the age of 55. An autopsy was unable to determine if the cause of death had been liver disease or Lou Gehrig's disease.

Victims of medical malpractice face daunting challenges. Hospitals and doctors are reluctant to admit their mistakes, and they have formidable resources at their disposal. Any individual contemplating a lawsuit of this kind may be well advised to contact an attorney experienced in dealing with medical professionals and their insurance companies. Familiarity with this type of litigation may be invaluable when assessing the merits of a case and judging the likelihood of a successful outcome.

Source: Rapid City Journal, "Jury awards Interior man $776,000 in medical malpractice lawsuit", Andrea J. Cook, January 19, 2014

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