On January 25, 2013, a New York medical malpractice jury awarded $1.5 million to a patient against his former gastroenterologist and his former laparoscopic surgeon after almost eight weeks of trial, finding that the gastroenterologist was 60% responsible and that the laparoscopic surgeon was 40% responsible for the man’s injuries caused during a routine colonoscopy procedure that negligently resulted in three holes in the man’s colon followed by laparoscopic surgery to repair the three holes that ended up causing a fourth hole in the man’s small intestine.
The man had gone to the gastroenterologist for a routine screening colonoscopy even though he had no pain or other symptoms or complaints. The gastroenterologist alleged that he found some bleeding blood vessels during the colonoscopy for which he used a heater probe to cauterize the bleeding vessels. When the patient awakened from the procedure, he experienced a burning sensation in his abdomen but was discharged to home with assurances that the discomfort would subside. When his pain became severe at home, he returned to the gastroenterologist the following morning at which time the gastroenterologist suspected a probable perforation of the man’s cecum as a result of the previous day’s procedure.
The gastroenterologist referred his patient to the laparoscopic surgeon for surgical repair of the suspected perforation. The laparoscopic surgeon was able to identify and repair three holes in the colon caused by the heater probe after which the man spent several days in the hospital. However, one and a half days after he was discharged home from the hospital, he returned to the hospital with severe abdominal pain. Further surgery discovered a perforation of the man’s small intestine.
The man filed a medical malpractice case against the gastroenterologist and the laparoscopic surgeon, alleging that the gastroenterologist’s use of the heater probe was too risky and breached the standard of care applicable to the man’s routine screening colonoscopy (the risk of a bowel perforation during a screening colonoscopy is approximately 1 in 1,200 but the risk of a bowel perforation caused by using a heater probe can be as high as approximately 1 in 40) and that the laparoscopic surgeon breached the standard of care by failing to properly inspect the man’s small intestine that would have discovered the hole that he missed.
Routine screening colonoscopies, which are recommended for people when they reach the age of 50, save lives by the early detection of colon cancer, other forms of cancer, and pre-cancerous polyps that can be removed before they become cancerous. For healthy people, screening colonoscopies are relatively safe and the risks associated with the procedure are outweighed by the benefits. Patients who are referred for screening colonoscopies are well-served by doing their due diligence into the qualifications and experience of their medical providers who are scheduled to perform the procedure on them. However, even the best-qualified medical providers who meet the standard of care may not be able to prevent all injuries to their patients during colonoscopies; nonetheless, it is important that they diagnose injuries in a timely fashion and properly respond to complications and injuries caused during the procedure.
If you, a family member, or a loved one suffered injuries or other complications as a result of a colonoscopy or other medical procedure or treatment, you should promptly contact a local medical malpractice attorney to investigate whether there is an appropriate basis for bringing a medical malpractice claim.
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