Wrong-Site Surgery: A Pre Law Case-Based Examination

When a person undergoes a surgical procedure, they already face serious potential health risks, regardless of the type of surgery they require. Problems with anesthesia, the potential for unexpected complications to arise, and a number of other factors can all contribute to make surgery a dangerous prospect in any circumstance. However, most patients are at least able to take comfort in the fact that their medical care providers have the expertise and experience required to perform the procedure to the best possible standard.

Unfortunately, this confidence is sometimes misplaced. While the vast majority of surgeons are highly competent, dedicated professionals with the skill necessary to perform the incredibly complex Surgical Mistakeprocedures required in modern medical care, a small but substantial minority of surgeons are ill-equipped to take a patient’s life in their hands. An in-depth examination of a well-known case of surgical error can help to make this point clearer.

Dana Carvey, the comedian best known for his roles on Saturday Night Live and in the Wayne’s World movies, began experiencing severe chest pain as a result of angina. After undergoing several angioplasties to relieve the pain, all of which were ineffective, he eventually opted to undergo double bypass surgery in 1998. Unfortunately, he continued to experience chest pain even after the surgery had been successfully completed.

In an effort to determine precisely what lay behind the ongoing pain, Carvey underwent an angiogram. This test revealed that the double bypass operation Carvey had undergone had been performed on the wrong artery. While Carvey was lucky enough to have caught the problem in time (a final angioplasty procedure, performed by a different surgeon, successfully relieved Carvey’s arterial blockage, and he sustained no long-term damage to the heart muscle), the failure on the part of his initial surgeon placed his life in imminent danger. Without additional procedures, Carey may well have suffered a life-threatening medical event.

As a result of this revelation, Carvey, with the assistance of a skilled medical malpractice attorney, sued his surgeon and the facility at which the operation was performed for $7.5 million, eventually settling for an undisclosed amount, which was distributed to various charitable organizations engaged in research for preventing heart disease. Carvey had the luxury of significant financial security, which enabled him to pursue the suit solely for the purpose of holding his surgeon accountable for his errors. However, many patients who suffer from the effects of medical malpractice do not have this luxury, and must pursue litigation as a matter of necessity as much as one of accountability.

Medical Malpractice: A Faculty Case Study

Medical malpractice is a legal term, used to refer to injuries or illness that medical professionals may cause to patients by failing to comport with the standards expected of the medical profession. Medical malpractice can occur in a wide variety of different circumstances, sometimes arising as a result of a doctor’s failure to act and in other situations occurring because of careless errors or recklessness. Regardless of the cause, however, the victims of medical malpractice have a right to pursue compensation from those responsible for their damages through a malpractice lawsuit.

Determining liability for malpractice can sometimes be more complex than it may initially appear, however. Particularly when malpractice occurs at large medical institutions, such as hospitals, there is often a distinct possibility that more than one party contributed to the events resulting in an instance of malpractice. An examination of a specific case can help to illustrate the remarkable complexity of some medical malpractice cases.

The actor Dennis Quaid and his wife Kimberly were the proud parents of twins in November of 2007. However, when their children developed a staph infection, the hospital at which the twins had been delivered accidentally gave the two children an anti-coagulant medication several hundred times stronger than the medication which they were supposed to be administered. As a result, the children were rendered unable to clot blood, meaning that even a slight cut or other injury could prove fatal. For several days, the children’s lives were in imminent danger, after which the effects of the medication began to wear off and the threat gradually subsided.

Quaid and his wife, with the assistance of a medical malpractice attorney, filed a suit against both the hospital responsible for the medication error and the company which manufactured the medication. The errors on the part of the hospital were self-evident, if largely understandable, and a settlement was soon reached.

However, the lawsuit against the medication’s manufacturer, Baxter Healthcare, is more complicated. The hospital’s mistake, according to some observers, was not the first time this type of problem had occurred with this particular medication. In fact, the anti-coagulant which had been improperly administered to the Quaids’ twins had been associated with several other instances of medical malpractice, resulting in several cases of infant mortality. The problem, according to the suit, arose from the remarkable similarity between the packaging of different versions of the medication produced by Baxter Healthcare. The suit is currently still pending.

As this case should demonstrate, medical malpractice can and often does occur as the result of errors and mistakes on the parts of several different actors. In these circumstances, liability may be assessed to several groups.

Ford Pinto: A Pre Law Case-Study in Product Liability

The Ford Pinto was Ford Motor Company’s entrance into the subcompact car market in the 1970s. With the rising popularity of imported Japanese and German vehicles, which were often smaller and more fuel efficient, beginning to push into the dominance of American automakers’ share of the market, Ford designed the Pinto as a viable alternative. The Pinto was fairly popular, selling more than 3 million units during its production span.

Unfortunately, an element of the Pinto’s design made it susceptible to serious damage if involved in an accident. The fuel tank was not properly constructed, and in even minor rear-end collision accidents, the filler neck might break and release fuel, resulting in deadly fires and explosions in some accidents. More damningly, an internal memo which had been circulated among Ford’s executive directors was obtained by Mother Jones magazine in 1977, showing that the company Ford Pintohad not only been aware of the design defect but, after conducting a cost/benefit analysis determining that fixing the defect would cost around $11 per vehicle, had concluded that it would be more cost-effective to simply allow the defective vehicles to remain on the market and settle any legal actions which might later be brought.

The first lawsuit brought against the Ford Pinto, Grimshaw v. Ford Motor Company, demonstrated just how devastating the consequences of this product defect could be. Lily Gray and 13-year old Richard Grimshaw were traveling in a Ford Pinto when the vehicle was struck by another car, at the relatively low speed of 30 miles per hour. However, because of the defective fuel tank design, the vehicle burst into flames, killing Lily and severely injuring Richard. With the assistance of an experienced product liability attorney, Grimshaw and the Gray family sued Ford Motor Company, resulting in compensatory damage awards of $560,000 for the Grays and $2.5 million for Richard Grimshaw. As a result of the corporate memo, however, the jury also assessed punitive damages against the Ford Motor Company for a total of $125 million. While these damages were eventually reduced to a much more reasonable sum, they demonstrated the considerable public disapproval that Ford’s actions had incited.

Further cases were brought against Ford throughout the 1970s, eventually resulting in the discontinuation of the Pinto line in the early 1980s. While this case is an especially devastating example of the dangers that product liability can pose to the general public, many other types of product defect cases in the United States have helped to hold manufacturers accountable for the consequences their actions can have.