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Incorrect Amputation: A Medical Malpractice “Never Event”

Medical malpractice is harm caused to a patient due to a medical care professional’s mistake. Certain forms of medical malpractice are so egregious, unreasonable, and unforgivable, they are called “never events,” as in they should never happen under acceptable circumstances. Out of all the types of never events, one of the most traumatic is an incorrect amputation.

There are three ways an amputation procedure can go wrong:

  • Wrong limb amputated: As impossible as it might be to imagine, wrong limb amputations can and do happen. Before any amputation procedure, surgical staff should prep thoroughly to understand why the amputation is happening and, perhaps most importantly, what limb needs to be amputated. If paperwork is crossed or the surgeons rush preparations, then the wrong limb or body part can be marked for amputation. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality data, nearly 60% of orthopedic surgeons witness surgery performed on the wrong body part of a patient each year. Although, it is not clear how many of those incidents were related to wrong-site amputations.
  • Waiting too long: Amputating a limb can become necessary due to health complications suffered by the patient. For example, some diabetics require amputations due to foot ulcers and extensive nerve damage, which can cause necrosis. Medical providers must make the decision to amputate a limb before harm or disease can spread to other parts of the body. Waiting too long can be considered an amputation error, a form of medical malpractice.
  • Amputating too early: Contrarily, a medical provider needs to be fully aware and consider all possible alternative treatments before prescribing an amputation. Skimming over treatment options and rushing to make a diagnosis can result in an unnecessary amputation. In returning to the example of diabetics, some patients may be able to lose weight and use medications to control their diabetes symptoms, restoring blood flow to their feet before irreversible necrosis can set in.

What Should Be Done After Incorrect Amputation?

Any patient who has suffered from an incorrect amputation needs to collect and keep copies of their medical record. Within the details there, the source of the severe medical mistake might be found. To make things simpler, the medical record and any other related information should be brought to a personal injury attorney who can investigate the matter from their better perspective as a legal professional.