Every day in New York, thousands of people undergo routine medical procedures, entrusting the physicians and supporting staff to adhere to the highest standards of acceptable care.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. The results can be devastating. Such was reportedly the case for a Brooklyn mother who lost both legs and most of her hearing following what should have been a straightforward gynecological procedure.
In Galette v. Byrne, filed in the Brooklyn Supreme Court, the plaintiff alleges the surgeon at Winthrop University Hospital on Long Island punctured her colon while performing a laparoscopic removal of an ectopic pregnancy. As a result, she developed a severe sepsis infection and gangrene, resulting in a three-month intensive care unit stay that included three episodes of cardiac arrest, two rounds of amputation that resulted in a loss of both legs at the knee, hearing loss, a colostomy and skin grafts.
However, to hear the hospital attorneys tell it, the patient should be grateful she is alive, arguing that she received the highest level in life-saving care. They say there was nothing negligent about the care she received.
New York medical malpractice plaintiffs usually must steel themselves for an intense and sometimes prolonged battle if they hope to be successful. Even in cases such as this where egregious harm is readily apparent, deep-pocketed physicians, hospitals and insurance companies will fight tooth-and-nail to avoid any concession of wrongdoing.
In this case, that fight also included motions requesting a change of venue that would have forced the plaintiff to restart her case back at square one. Thankfully, those requests were rejected by the court in December of last year, paving the way for the case to move forward.
Overcoming those challenges isn’t the end of the road, but these kinds of claims are certainly winnable.
Recent news reports indicate New York City’s hospitals paid an eye-popping $131 million in 262 medical malpractice claims made in fiscal year 2013. That was about $3 million less than what was paid out for 270 medical malpractice claims paid in fiscal year 2012.
The plaintiff’s case appears strong. While any surgery carries risk and an ectopic pregnancy in and of itself can potentially be life-threatening, its removal is not an unusually risky procedure. Most women who undergo larascopic surgery for this condition can expect a full physical recovery in the course of about two weeks.
However, in this case, the plaintiff contends that doctors failed to follow accepted medical practices by failing to spot a 5-millimeter hole in her colon, reportedly inflicted by the surgeon during the procedure.
The doctors firmly deny that they caused the puncture, saying it was caused by a pre-existing bowel condition. They further argue that even if they had caused the hole, it is considered a “recognized risk” of the surgery, and therefore wouldn’t be considered medical malpractice.
Additionally, they say a CT scan immediately after the surgery did not show any sign of a problem.
Both sides made opening arguments in early December, and the trial is expected to last approximately six weeks.
The Law Offices of Nicholas Rose, PLLC offers free consultations. Call 1-877-313-7673.
Galette v. Byrne et al, Supreme Court of the State of New York, Appellate Division: Second Judicial Department
More Blog Entries:
Cardiac Stents and the Risk of Medical Malpractice in New York, Oct. 23, 2013, Brooklyn Medical Malpractice Lawyer Blog