It is said that life is ironic. Occasionally an event comes along to prove that point, and today’s post is a tragic reminder of that.
The case is ironic because it involves catastrophic consequences of medical negligence, with the victim being a doctor and surgeon. The plaintiff doctor, 61 years old, underwent elective surgery for a condition known as cervical stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spinal canal. The operation required the placement of surgical screws into the spine, and the neurosurgeon performing the surgery drilled a hole into the plaintiff’s spinal cord. In the process, the surgeon punctured what is known as the dura of the spinal column, which is the membrane covering the spinal cord. The plaintiff awoke from the surgery a quadriplegic.
Following the surgery, the plaintiff underwent extensive inpatient physical rehabilitation for two months. Following months of physical therapy and medical management, he slowly – and surprisingly – improved. Before his rehabilitation began, he had to be lifted out of bed by an electric lift in order to be placed into a wheelchair. He had to be essentially “retrained” in every aspect of daily living, including not only basic ambulating, but in controlling bladder and bowel movements, and basic motor skills. Upon inpatient discharge, the plaintiff then had to undergo more extensive physical therapy for several additional months. He progressed from a wheelchair, to walking with forearm crutches, to using a walker, and he now walks with a cane. All in all, a miraculous recovery, most likely due to the fact that even though the doctor performing the surgery perforated the membrane covering the spinal cord, the spinal cord itself wasn’t punctured.
Despite his miraculous progress, the victim in this case will never be the same. He continues to suffer residual weakness in his torso and limbs, as well as severe impairment of motor function of his fingers, neuropathic pain and loss of control in his arms and legs. He will never again perform surgery as a physician.
As a Boston medical malpractice attorney, I can tell you that cases like this happen far more than most people want to think. Hospitals and medical malpractice insurers like to tell the public that almost all medical negligence cases are frivolous, and proof that “tort reform” is needed to “hold down medical malpractice liability insurance premiums.” They convince their customers – doctors – that these lies are true, promising them “reduced” insurance premiums if they help the companies to pressure legislators to pass medical liability “reform.” After they then pass laws either prohibiting various kinds of medical liability suits, or placing damage caps on the types of suits that can be brought, they lower premiums for a year or so, before jacking them up all over again. To learn more about how unjust these “reforms” can be to the average American, view the HBO documentary “Hot Coffee.” Believe me, as a Dedham, Massachusetts personal injury lawyer, every American owes it to him or herself to view this documentary about what “tort reform” is really all about. You’ll walk away stunned, even a little frightened.
If you feel that you or someone you care about may have been the victim of medical negligence or Massachusetts medical malpractice, contact our office for a free consultation. We have years of experience in this area of law, and can give you the guidance you need.