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Victim awarded $13.4 million for devastating surgical errors

No patient here in New Jersey or elsewhere expects to come out of a hospital in worse condition than when he or she went into it. Unfortunately, surgical errors, medication errors and other negligence occur far too often. The fact of the matter is that some doctors do not deserve the right to practice medicine.

One such doctor, who is not from New Jersey, had a history of problems both personally and professionally that affected his ability to treat patients. However, those issues did not prevent him from performing a controversial procedure on a patient in Oct. 2010. During the heart valve replacement surgery, air bubbles got into the patient's arteries. Those bubbles traveled to the man's brain, causing him extensive brain damage.

In 2012, a lawsuit was filed against the doctor and other defendants, including the South Dakota hospital where the procedure took place. Other defendants settled out of court, and the doctor failed to defend himself in court. This more than likely made it easier for the jury to award the victim approximately $13.4 million, which is said to be the state's largest medical malpractice verdict ever. The monies awarded are earmarked for the future medical and other needs of the brain-damaged victim who will never again have a normal life.

Part of what makes this case such a tragedy is that the doctor was not even qualified to perform the procedure that led to the patient's injuries. Medical facilities here in New Jersey and around the country need to take steps to ensure that the medical professionals they employ are qualified and do not have a history of making mistakes. As illustrated by this case, surgical errors could result in devastating health consequences for unsuspecting patients. Even though it does not hurt to be proactive, patients should not be responsible for ensuring that the doctors that treat them know what they are doing. 

Source: argusleader.com, "Medical malpractice judgment might be largest in state history", Jonathan Ellis, March 3, 2017

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