A surgical error twenty years ago leads to the amputation of patient’s leg. The patient, ironically, is a medical professor who has spent his career studying preventable medical errors. A story in the New York Times shows not only how the results of medical errors can have tragic consequences years later, but that these types of accidents can happen to anyone. Almost twenty years ago, Frederick Southwick had surgery on his left Achilles’ tendon. In order to prevent bleeding during the procedure, a pressurized cuff was placed above his knee to cut off the blood flow.
But last July, Southwick began experiencing incredible pain in his left calf. Doctors discovered that during his Achilles’ tendon surgery, the cuff was left on too long, causing injury to the arteries. Over the years, the vessels progressively scarred and calcified, and that eventually blocked all blood flow to his lower leg. Two months later, his leg had to be amputated. Southwick refers to the loss of his limb as a preventable error. Ironically, he is a professor of medicine at the University of Florida and his focus of study over the past two decades has been preventable errors in health care. He describes loss of his leg as traumatic and struggles over that loss, as well as the pain and rehabilitation of learning to use a prosthetic leg. His medical career has also been put on hold because of the situation.
Dr. Southwick references a study that determined how many deaths are due to medical error each year which was conducted by the Institute of Medicine a decade ago. The data compiled from that study revealed there were 44,000 to 98,000 deaths per year because of preventable errors in the American health system. The study also found that for every death there are likely to be at least ten serious injuries, concluding that roughly a million patients are seriously injured each year.
Our law firm has represented dozens of clients who have been victims of physicians’ errors and mistakes. Medical malpractice victims should consult with a Virginia personal injury lawyer to find out what compensation they may be entitled to for their pain and loss.