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Bowel Perforation Due to Physician Negligence

Bowel perforation is a serious medical condition that can be life threatening if left untreated, or is improperly or unsuccessfully treated. Bowel or gastrointestinal perforation occurs when a hole develops in the stomach wall, small intestine, large intestine or gallbladder that causes the intestinal or stomach contents to leak into the abdominal cavity. The leakage causes peritonitis, a severe inflammation of the tissue lining the abdominal wall and organs (peritoneum).

A number of diseases, such as Crohn's disease, diverticulosis, colorectal cancer, inflammatory bowel disease and ulcerative colitis can make an individual more susceptible to developing a bowel perforation. It can also be the result of a surgical procedure gone wrong.

Symptoms associated with intestinal perforation may include severe abdominal pain, fever, nausea or vomiting. The condition can usually be treated successfully by surgery to close the hole. However, complications can arise such as internal bleeding, abscess development inside the abdominal cavity and infection. In some cases, sepsis can set in, which is a dangerous, often lethal, infection that requires aggressive medical treatment.

Bowel Perforation Caused by Surgical Procedures

Many people associate surgical errors with serious operations, like brain or heart surgery because the impact of these mistakes is often so devastating. What people frequently do not realize is that even with routine surgical procedures, errors and carelessness can leave individuals with dangerous medical conditions. In fact, one of the most common procedures that can cause a bowel perforation is a colonoscopy, particularly when a mass or polyp is removed during the surgery. A simple nick or cut in the thin tissue of the intestines, colon or bowel can result in horrific consequences for the patient.

A patient's injuries can be intensified when a physician fails to diagnose, detect or misdiagnoses a ruptured bowel. Time is of the essence when a gastrointestinal perforation occurs. Any delay in treatment cause the condition to worsen.

Medical Negligence and Doctor Liability

If perforation of the bowel was caused by a doctor's mistake or negligence, he or she may be held liable for the patient's injury and subsequent health risks. In order to hold the physician liable, the injured victim (or family member on behalf of the injured victim) must be able to prove medical negligence. It is not enough that the surgery resulted in an unfortunate outcome; there must be evidence that the physician's actions or inaction(s) were negligent and caused the patient's injuries.

This can be done by bringing a medical malpractice claim against the responsible party. The plaintiff bringing the claim must be able to prove four elements to the court, namely:

  • The defendant (doctor) owed the injured victim a legal duty of care, often established by the doctor-patient relationship
  • The defendant violated this duty when he or she failed to meet the standard of care owed the victim
  • The victim was injured because the defendant failed to meet this duty of care
  • The victim (patient) suffered damages as the result of the injury

It is important to understand that the standard of care is determined by the actions or treatment procedures a doctor in the area would employ under the same or similar circumstances.

If the plaintiff's claim is successful, he or she may be entitled to damages for the losses suffered. In Ohio, damages in a medical malpractice claim may be compensatory or punitive.

Compensatory damages are intended to reimburse the injured party for economic and non-economic damages. Some examples of economic damages may include compensation for medical bills, treatment and lost wages. Non-economic damages cover a broader spectrum of loss, like pain and suffering, loss of consortium, disability, disfigurement, future medical care and future lost income due to an inability to work.

Punitive or exemplary damages are less common, though a plaintiff may be entitled to them under certain circumstances. In cases where the defendant acted in a way that was so malicious and indifferent to the potential outcome for the injured party, punitive damages are necessary to punish the defendant for his or her wrongdoing and dissuade others from future similar conduct. Punitive damages may be awarded by the court on a case-by-case basis depending on the circumstances of the case and severity of the doctor's actions.

Consult with a Medical Malpractice Attorney

Medical malpractice cases can be time consuming and complex. If you feel you were injured due to a doctor's negligence, it is important to speak with an attorney experienced in these types of cases. A medical malpractice lawyer will be able to work with medical experts to investigate, gather evidence and lay the foundation for your claim. Contact an Ohio medical malpractice attorney to discuss the circumstances of your injury and explore your legal options.

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Anderson Law Offices, LLC

Anderson Law Offices, LLC 17138 Lorain Avenue, Suite 211 | Cleveland, OH 44111
Telephone: 216-589-0256 | Telephone: 888-589-0256 | Cleveland Law Office