Failure to properly sterilize instruments before surgery.
My search of medical malpractice lawsuits concerning improper cleaning of surgical instruments outside of Pennsylvania came up with relatively few hits. This could be due to a number of reasons i.e. states with laws prohibiting such claims, claims filed as non-medical malpractice and straight negligence, etc. In any case, I found the follow two cases that are worth pointing out.
In Gindlesperger v. Alliance Community Hospital, the plaintiff went to trial and won on a theory of exposure to dirty surgical instruments. Apparently, it was discovered that the defendant hospital had failed to properly sterilize its instruments prior to the plaintiff's bladder surgery. It was subsequently discovered that the instruments used on the plaintiffs had been used in a previous gynecological procedure on another patient without ever being properly washed. As a result, the plaintiff claimed that she was placed at an increased risk of developing and infection and had been potentially exposed to a significant blood borne illness like HIV or Hepatitis.
An Ohio jury awarded the plaintiff $ 47,200 for the hospitals negligence.
Next, there was the Michigan case of John Case v. W.A. Foote Memorial Hospital for claims of exposure to a dirty colonoscope during a colonoscopy. Again, the plaintiff claimed damages for the resulting blood testing he had to undergo as a result of being exposed to a colonoscope that the defendant hospital had failed to properly clean. My research only showed that this case settled. An amount of settlement was not listed.
The take away here is that there is clearly a value to the ordeal exposure to dirty surgical instruments put people through, even if they do not contract a disease or develop infection. What a plaintiff may expect to be compensated will depend entirely on the facts of their case and the extent to which they were adversely affected by the subsequent testing, inconvenience and fear. Regardless, this issue is one that will resonate with everyone. Our community does not want our medical providers needlessly exposing patients to blood borne illness.
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