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What Can Happen When The Doctor Leaves A Sponge Behind

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Missouri Malpractice Law: Retained Objects during Surgery


In some medical malpractice cases it is difficult to determine whether the harm you suffered was the result of medical negligence or whether it was simply the result of the inevitable risks that are involved in any medical procedure. When a surgical tool such as a scalpel, sponge, or a pair of forceps is actually left inside your body after the surgical incision is closed, however, all room for doubt disappears. The medical community refers to this as the Unintended Retention of Foreign Objects (URFO). Disturbingly, URFO events occur thousands of times a year in the United States. When this happens, there is never any greater need to contact a St. Louis, Missouri malpractice lawyer.




The following risk factors increase the likelihood of retaining objects during surgery:

  • Emergency surgery, either on the patient in whose body the object were retained, or on a patient whose surgery immediately follows (causing doctors to rush to close the first patient’s incision).       

  • Last-minute changes in procedure that tend to confuse medical personnel.        

  • High body mass index, especially in morbidly obese patients.


Medical Consequences


The medical consequences of retained surgical objects range from the mere inconvenience of having to undergo further surgery to severe medical problems and even death. Common problems include:

  • Infections that begin in the affected area and spread from there

  • Bowel perforation (possibly leading to sepsis, a life-threatening whole-body infection)

  • Internal bleeding

  • Permanent organ damage

  • Shock

  • Agonizing pain

  • Death


Legal Consequences


Compensatory damages, designed to compensate you for all of your tangible and intangible losses (perhaps even including legal expenses) are awarded if you can establish medical malpractice – the only question is whether or not the amount will be adequate to cover your actual losses. In Missouri, punitive damages are also available in cases of shocking disregard for patient well-being. Punitive damages are awarded in addition to compensatory damages, although 50% of the amount of punitive damages awarded goes to the Missouri state government.


In Missouri, if the patient dies as a result of medical malpractice, a close relative can file a wrongful death lawsuit to compensate for the suffering of the deceased as well as the suffering and financial losses of the grieving relative.


Pitfalls and Loopholes

Prosecuting a medical malpractice lawsuit is no easier than performing surgery because many pitfalls await the careless and the unwary. The Missouri statute of limitations for medical malpractice, for example, is only two years from the date of the injury, but can be extended in certain cases based on a complex set of exceptions, including a specific exception for retained objects. Even if you win (whether in court or at the settlement table), you could end up with far less money than you need to support long-term medical expenses if you fail to establish them with admissible evidence. Settlement negotiations are particularly difficult, because experienced insurance industry lawyers will use every trick in the book to settle with you for as little as possible.

A medical malpractice claim is not the occasion to seek the cheapest and easiest solution to the problem – in the long run, you could end up losing a great deal more than you save. Instead, seek the assistance of a savvy Missouri medical malpractice lawyer who will fight your battle until you receive every penny you are entitled to. For a free initial consultation, call Alvin Wolff at 314-241-2500 today so that we can get the process started.  

Category: General


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