Most people expect doctors to provide reasonable care and avoid egregious mistakes which can be detrimental to a patient’s health. Unfortunately, sometimes doctors do things which are so clearly negligent and below the professional standard of care that there is no question they have harmed the patient.
In cases like this, a legal doctrine called res ipsa loquitor can apply. Res ipsa loquitor means the thing speaks for itself. It signifies that the behavior on the part of the doctor is egregious enough that negligence can be presumed, and a plaintiff isn’t required to specifically prove negligence, other than by showing the terrible thing the doctor did.
While many medical malpractice cases aren’t so open and shut, cases in which res ipsa loquitor applies are situations in which no reasonable person could argue the doctor’s actions were justified. A recent Health Aim (no longer available) article illustrated some examples of these types of cases.
Disturbing Medical Malpractice Cases
Some of the most disturbing examples of malpractice which were assembled on the Health Aim list include:
- A surgical procedure performed without anesthesia: A 73-year-old patient was not given the proper dosage of anesthetic so he experienced anesthesia awareness. He felt all of the discomfort and pain during surgery, but he was not able to communicate. The patient committed suicide two weeks after the surgery due to the trauma which he endured.
- Problems in medical care facilities: A 36-year-old man with a traumatic brain injury was living in an assisted living facility. He died due to unopened ketchup packets, paper towels, and plastic bags inside of his stomach. His wife sued the care facility where he was living.
- Items left inside patients: There are numerous egregious examples of items left inside of patients. For example, one patient who had a procedure to remove a tumor inside of his stomach ended up with a 13 inch metal retractor being left inside of him.
- Doctors operating on the wrong body part: A 52-year-old had the wrong leg amputated by the doctor performing surgery. The surgeon had his license revoked for six months, paid a $10,000 fine, and voluntarily paid $250,000 to the man whose leg he amputated. The hospital where the procedure was performed paid the patient another $900,000.
- Fertility clinics making errors: The fertility clinic where a woman was receiving treatment made an error and impregnated her with the sperm of a stranger, instead of with her husband’s sperm. The mistake was discovered when she gave birth to a dark-skinned baby and a DNA test revealed the sperm that had been used came from a man of African descent.
- Cancer misdiagnosis: A woman was told she had cancer and had three to six months to live. She could extend her life if she had a disfiguring surgery which removed part of her chin. After having the surgery, it was discovered she never had cancer in the first place.
These are just a few of many examples of situations where patients receive clearly improper medical care.