Surgical Error vs. Podiatric Malpractice

How can you tell if your failed foot surgery constitutes a case of podiatric malpractice?

Unfortunately, stories of botched foot surgeries are all too common. It seems that too many people who undergo foot surgery have complications, experience a longer than predicted recovery period, or are dissatisfied with the results of the procedure. If you have been through a recent foot operation and are still experiencing pain, limited mobility, or some other difficult symptom, you should contact an experienced malpractice attorney who specializes in podiatry cases. Only a skilled professional will be able to help determine whether an unavoidable surgical error occurred during your procedure or your surgeon was actually negligent. In the end, of course, assuming your malpractice attorney takes your case, the final decision will be made by a settlement or through litigation.

How is medical malpractice defined?

Medical treatment, whether surgical or not, has to adhere to accepted standards of medical care. In order to reach the standard of malpractice, the doctor’s (or medical facility’s) treatment must not only be substandard, but must result in harm to the patient. The fact that an error occurs, in and of itself, does not constitute malpractice.

The definition of standard of care is care of the type and level an ordinary, prudent healthcare professional, with similar training and experience, would provide under similar circumstances in the same community. If the care has been substandard, the next question that needs to be answered is whether the patient has been harmed by the substandard care.

What differentiates a known “risk of surgery” from malpractice?

Your surgeon or podiatrist should inform you of the known risks of surgery and ask you to sign a consent form before “going under the knife.” Most surgery usually has unavoidable risks such as excessive bleeding.  The only risks you agree to accept when you agree to surgery (and sign a consent form) are those which are unavoidable and not the surgeon’s fault.  However, sometimes even the known or common risks of surgery can be caused by the surgeon’s error.  The key is for your attorney to determine if your bad result was from an unavoidable risk (“risk of surgery”) or if it was from the surgeon’s error (“malpractice”).

Reasons for Surgical Errors that May Result in Malpractice Charges

Though we are all well aware that making mistakes is a universal human foible, we don’t offer too much leeway in podiatric or other medical errors. While any doctor can make a mistake, professional teams, hospitals and surgical sites are required to have a system of checks and balances in place to keep care optimal. Podiatric or other medical failures can occur for one of the following reasons:

  • Incompetence due to lack of experience or improper training
  • Insufficient pre-planning of the operation or for complications that may occur
  • Attempting to speed up the procedure by taking shortcuts
  • Poor communication or recordkeeping (e.g. not noting the patient’s regular medications)
  • Fatigue due to working long shifts and not getting sufficient rest between procedures
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Neglect, such as failing to sterilize instruments

The above problems are considered malpractice when they result in surgical errors during foot surgery that harm the patient. Though it is always necessary to check you individual circumstances with a competent podiatric malpractice attorney, the following egregious errors are almost always indisputable examples of malpractice:

  • Nerve injury during the operation
  • Administration of the wrong dose or type of anesthesia
  • Performing an incision at the wrong site
  • Leaving a piece of surgical equipment inside the patient
  • Operating on the wrong body part
  • Operating on the wrong patient

If you believe you have been the victim of podiatric malpractice, whether or not it meets the level of the above-mentioned acts of terrible negligence, you should contact an attorney who specializes in the field and will be well-prepared to represent your interests and help you to receive the highest possible compensation for your suffering.

About the Author
Of all the different areas in medical malpractice, it is podiatry malpractice that has had a particular interest to me. With 42 years practicing law and representing hundreds of victims of malpractice, I have created a law practice in which my clients are comfortable knowing that their case is being handled with my personal attention, in the most professional manner, and without unreasonable delays.