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Appeal favors North Carolina patient in surgical error case

After consulting with several doctors and failing to receive a proper diagnosis for chronic pain and numbness in his arm, an over-the-road trucker turned to a North Carolina hospital for answers. Although the man sought out Duke Hospital for its reputation, he became the victim of medical negligence.

A doctor at the Duke University medical center diagnosed the 38-year-old trucker with thoracic outlet syndrome, which is typically treated by removing the first rib on the affected half of the body. Instead of removing the first rib on the man's left side, his surgeon inexplicably removed the second rib. The error was discovered only after the man developed an infection at the surgical site.

Understandably, the man sought further treatment at a different medical facility. Even though the man opted to have the error corrected as best as possible, he currently suffers from pain and limited range of motion in his arm due to the botched operation. As such, the man brought a medical malpractice claim against the original health care provider, but it was initially denied in court.

Recently, a North Carolina appeals court finally ruled in the patient's favor. In the appeal, the man and his attorney argued that the hospital should have lived up to a comparable standard of care offered at other teaching hospitals. Now, a medical malpractice suit will be allowed to move forward.

All too often, doctors make careless mistakes during surgery, such as amputating the wrong limb or operating on the wrong organ. These kinds of errors can be avoided if physicians and other medical staff would take seemingly obvious precautions. The hope is that increased attention and scrutiny on this problem can better ensure the safety of future patients.

Source: The Herald-Sun, "Duke Hospital decision reversed by Court of Appeals," Beth Velliquette, April 17, 2013

  • Our firm has experience dealing with the details of surgical error cases. To find out more, please see our Raleigh medical malpractice page.

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