You have the right to competent care for elective plastic surgery. See how our victim seeks compensation for a botched cosmetic procedure.
This case demonstrates one of many plastic surgery horror stories that can happen, and the importance of checking a surgeon’s credentials and experience before going under the knife.
This case study is for educational purposes only. It is based on actual events, although names have been changed to protect those involved. Any resemblance to real persons or entities is purely coincidental.
We’ll cover how our victim was injured, the malpractice insurance claim, and the final settlement of her injury claim.
Our study finishes up with a list of important points about workers’ compensation claims.
Medical and Surgical Malpractice
Melinda Gordon is a 40-year-old mom who was unhappy with her physical appearance. She visited a plastic surgeon, Dr. Robert Brice, for a consultation on various cosmetic procedures.
During the consultation, Melinda asked about the expected recovery time and how much each procedure would cost. She was happy that Dr. Brice charged much less than other plastic surgeons she had called. Melinda didn’t think to ask the surgeon about his credentials or experience.
Melinda was scheduled for breast augmentation surgery and a tummy tuck. She filled out all the medical history and authorization forms and paid in advance for her elective cosmetic surgeries.
Melinda checked into City Hospital on the day of her out-patient surgery. She didn’t know that Dr. Brice was not a board-certified surgeon and had never performed breast augmentation surgery on his own.
The breast augmentation surgery took much longer than planned. Dr. Brice was getting sloppy, trying to get her closed up after the anesthesiologist expressed concern about how long Melinda had been under sedation. The tummy tuck would have to be rescheduled.
Finally, Dr. Brice sent Melinda to recovery with an order to give her morphine for pain control. He then left the hospital. Dr. Brice failed to notice in her pre-op paperwork that Melinda was allergic to morphine.
When Melinda began to wake up in recovery, she was in significant pain and began vomiting violently. The recovery room nurses attributed her vomiting to being under anesthesia for so long. She was given an anti-nausea injection that stopped the vomiting before she was discharged.
Melinda was sent home with morphine pills for pain and oral anti-nausea medication. However, her husband brought her to the emergency room within 12 hours because she developed non-stop vomiting, a fever, and one of her incisions began bleeding through her bandages.
In the ER, the ER Doctor discovered that Melinda was severely dehydrated from the vomiting triggered by a violent reaction to the morphine. Her fever continued to spike, and the incision under her right breast continued to show signs of infection.
Melinda was rushed to surgery, where gauze was found inside her right breast. She spent three more days in the hospital while she was treated for the allergic reaction, dehydration, and infection caused by the gauze left in her breast.
Injuries and Damages
Melinda had paid Dr. Brice out-of-pocket for the failed breast augmentation and the tummy tuck surgery that never happened.
Melinda also incurred medical costs for the emergency room evaluation and treatment, the inpatient hospital stay, and the emergency surgery needed to identify and remove the source of the infection (gauze) in her right breast. She also lost six additional weeks of work during her extended recovery.
Further, Melinda was left with uneven, scarred breasts. She had a worse cosmetic result than if she’s never had breast augmentation in the first place.
Melinda had heard of plastic surgery horror stories overseas, but she never thought something like this could have happened to her in the United States. She became angry, depressed, and betrayed by her Doctor.
Her husband had a claim for loss of consortium, meaning he could seek compensation for losing his wife’s affections, intimacy, and family responsibilities caused by Dr. Brice’s malpractice.
Malpractice Insurance Settlement
Melinda and her husband hired an experienced personal injury attorney to handle their claim with Dr. Brice’s liability insurance carrier.
Although Dr. Brice had privileges at City Hospital, he was not an employee of the hospital, so Melinda agreed not to pursue the hospital for damages.
The attorney negotiated an insurance settlement of $250,000 to compensate Melinda for her medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Melinda’s husband’s loss of consortium claim was settled for an additional $10,000.
Because Melinda’s attorney also helped her file a complaint with the state’s medical licensing board, Dr. Brice lost his license to practice medicine, and his office was closed.
Key Points About Medical Malpractice Claims
- Medical malpractice occurs when a health care professional negligently harms a patient by providing care that deviates from accepted standards of practice in the medical community.
- Not every poor patient outcome qualifies as medical malpractice.
- Medication errors and foreign objects left in the body after surgery are two forms of medical malpractice.
- Malpractice cases can be long and expensive, often turning into a battle between medical experts.
- Most victims need an experienced medical malpractice attorney to win their case.
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