Although hard to fathom, preventable medical errors that cause serious injuries to Oregon patients happen on a regular basis in our healthcare system. Hospital staff negligence can lead to medication errors and operations on the wrong patient or body part. In severe cases, preventable medical errors can cause permanent injuries or even death.
That was the experience of one man who lost his leg due to a preventable medical error. A physician himself, his story began when he experienced a sudden onset of pain in his left calf. Several months later, his leg required an above-the-knee amputation. The physical pain and emotional stress of losing his leg were made worse by the fact that his doctors could not explain why his leg's blood flow had been cut off. He didn't have any risk factors for the condition that causes a hardening of arties and loss of blood flow to a limb. It took further investigation to finally reveal the cause of his condition.
Seventeen years earlier, he had surgery on his left Achilles' tendon. A pressurized cuff was placed above his knee to block blood flow and prevent bleeding. It was left on too long and injured the arteries in his leg. Over the years his blood vessels slowly scarred and calcified. Eventually the blood flow to his lower leg was completely blocked off.
The man continues to struggle with the pain of losing his limb and learning to walk with a prosthesis. His experience is one that no one should have to go through. However, it brings to light the serious consequences of medical errors in our healthcare system. Patients who suffer due to preventable medical errors do have recourse against the responsible parties. A medical malpractice claim can hold those responsible for preventable errors accountable for their mistakes, and help victims recover damages.
Source: The New York Times, "Losing my leg to a medical error," Frederick S. Southwick, Feb. 19, 2013.