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Surgical technique tied to abnormal tissue and spread of cancer

Not all medical errors are intentional. Only those medical errors which occur because a healthcare provider or facility has been negligent or reckless past a legal duty of care to the patient generally rise to the level of medical malpractice. Other medical errors and adverse events occur within the scope of a healthcare provider or facility’s duty of care. These are the kinds of errors that are generally more difficult to hold providers accountable for, simply because they occur even when providers are acting to the best of their professional abilities.

Then, there is the kind of error which occurs in the grey space between duty of care and outright negligence. For example, a particular kind of surgical technique has been used in recent years on women who have fibroid tumors or need to have their uteruses removed completely. For a time, physicians practicing this technique were performing to the best of their professional abilities and could not generally be held accountable for unintended surgical errors and consequences resulting from the proper execution of this technique. However, the technique has now been tied to devastating side effects.

According to two recent pieces published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, the surgical procedure known as morcellation has now been tied to infection, pain, the spread of abnormal tissue in the body, bowel obstruction and the spread of hidden cancer. While surgeons who used this technique before these side effects were known were likely operating to the best of their abilities, surgeons who choose this technique in light of this knowledge could be held liable for related harm done to their patients.

Sometimes a particular kind of error is not fundamentally negligent or reckless. However, when new information is shed on the situation, the exact same kind of error could become solid grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Source: New York Times, “Uterine Surgical Technique Is Linked to Abnormal Growths and Cancer Spread,” Denise Grady, Feb. 6, 2014

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