In some of the most severe medical malpractice cases, a patient may suffer the loss of a limb as the result of a medical provider’s negligence. Amputation is an unexpected and life-changing injury that involves complicated medical treatment and brings a host of difficulties for the victim and his or her family. Medical malpractice victims who suffer amputations can seek recovery for their expenses and injuries.
Each state has different rules regarding medical malpractice cases and the amount of recovery that a victim and his or her family can seek for the injuries.
Common examples of medical negligence resulting in the need for amputation include:
Surgery on the wrong part of the body — for example, amputating the wrong limb
Infection caused by leaving surgical equipment in the patient’s body, resulting in the need for amputation
Giving the wrong medication — including the wrong dosage or method of administration — to a patient, resulting in limb loss
Failure to Treat or Wrong Treatment — If a physician diagnoses the correct medical condition, but fails to follow up with an appropriate treatment for an infection or to control diabetes, the untreated medical condition may lead to amputation. This is especially true for bacterial infections, which can quickly spiral out of control if not effectively treated.
Chart Errors — If the doctor, nurse, or hospital staff mixed up a chart, wrote down the wrong information, or failed to note important information in the chart and resulted in an amputation, that may be malpractice.
Only certain types of medical mistakes in certain treatment settings have the potential to cause leg amputations. There are 2 primary categories of medical errors/negligence that account for over 90% of all malpractice cases resulting in leg amputations: (1) surgical errors; and (2) failure to diagnose.
This category of malpractice includes more than just botched surgeries or mistakes by the surgeon during a procedure. The surgical error refers to any sort of negligent medical care related to a surgical procedure and the post-operative recovery and treatment. Most cases involving leg amputations actually involve treatment errors in the post-surgery recovery phase.
One common example of this is failing to properly monitor, diagnose and manage post-operative infections or other complications arising after the surgery is performed. Post-operative complications are not limited to infection and can include blood clots or conditions which disrupt blood circulation to the legs.
Failure to Diagnose
The most common type of medical malpractice associated with leg amputations involves failure to diagnose. Diagnostic errors occur whenever doctors negligently fail to diagnose, take too long to diagnose, or misdiagnose a medical condition.
The key here is that the misdiagnosis or delay in diagnosis must be negligent, which basically means that a reasonable doctor would have made the correct diagnosis under the same circumstances. When a negligent delay in diagnosis leads to leg amputation, the misdiagnosis almost always occurs in the hospital emergency room setting.
The classic example is where a person comes to the emergency room with generic symptoms and doctors diagnose them with something simple only to find out later that they had a more serious circulatory condition.
Consequences of Wrongful Amputation
Amputations have very serious consequences and should usually be a last resort when other treatments fail, or amputation is necessary to save the patient’s life or other parts of the body, such as amputating part of an infected foot to prevent losing the leg.
Some of the high costs of amputation for a patient include:
Disability — Even with a prosthetic limb, you’re likely to be unable to do everything you did before the amputation and will lose some functionality. You may not be able to work, especially if it’s something physical such as construction work. You may need job retraining, or you might not be able to work at all following an amputation.
Phantom Limb Pain — Many people who suffer amputations experience sensations of pain in the area where the missing limb used to be — even though no limb is there.
Amputation Neuroma — Lower limb amputees may experience trauma to nerves that causes pain and may require additional surgery.
Infection — Amputation sites may be prone to infection that require additional excision of tissue.
Prosthetic Problems — You may have issues with the fit of a prosthetic limb or use of a prosthetic limb that may result in pain or disability.
Muscle and Tissue Loss — You may lose muscle tone and additional tissue after an amputation.
Depression — It is very common for people who have experienced amputations to have depression or post-traumatic stress disorder that requires treatment and counseling and may affect day-to-day living.