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Woman receives $12 million award in medical malpractice case

Surgery generally requires the participation of a group of medical professionals. Patients facing planned surgery usually ensure they have chosen the right surgeon, but they often give little thought to the others who will be in the operating room. Honolulu residents should know that understanding who will be assisting in surgical procedures may be critical.

A woman entered the hospital for a routine hernia operation in 2008, but something went wrong during the operation. The woman's colon was punctured, and the doctor did not notice that an injury occurred and closed the patient’s incision. The woman subsequently developed a severe abdominal infection which led to septic shock and a heart attack. Her organs began to fail, and she lapsed into a coma for a month.

The woman had to undergo several subsequent surgeries to correct the problems during which she lost the majority of her large intestines. Several years later, the woman still has trouble digesting food properly, and she suffers from abdominal issues that hamper her mobility.

It eventually came to light that the surgeon had a surgical resident assisting with the original hernia operation, although the patient was unaware of this. She filed a medical malpractice suit against the hospital, the surgeon and the surgical resident. Her attorney stated that they believe it was the resident who punctured the woman's colon. The surgical resident disagreed with the allegation.

It took about three hours of deliberation on May 30 for a jury to rule in favor of the patient and award her $12 million. The hospital is considering filing an appeal of the verdict.

Before undergoing any surgery, patients should be notified if any training will take place during the procedure. In this case, the woman was able to determine what happened, and she retained legal counsel to advocate on her behalf and get her compensation for the pain and suffering she has endured.

Source: Insurance Journal, "Connecticut Hospital Ordered to Pay $12M in Medical Malpractice Case," Dave Collins, June 2, 2014

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