Maryland law provides that a surgeon is held to the same standard of care as other doctors. The surgeon must not fall below the minimum standard of care recognized by his or her medical peers for similar services. In that context, consider a recent lawsuit filed by an estate against two doctors and a medical center. The estate claims that due to surgeon error, a temporary stint that was implanted into the patient’s body was so mismanaged after the initial procedure that the patient ultimately died.
The stint was surgically implanted to treat a condition of cholestatic liver function and a pancreatic mass. The problem was that the stint was temporary only – it had to be removed and replaced by a permanent device within three months. Either the surgeon didn’t know that fact or he totally forgot it. He released the patient from care without instructions for further procedures, according to the lawsuit.
He also allegedly did not instruct the patient how to care for the implant. The lawsuit alleges that the temporary device, by not being removed and replaced, caused a septic infection to progress in the patient’s stomach. Right after learning of the problem, the stint was removed and a new one installed. Nonetheless, it was too late to stem the raging fires of the spreading infection. The patient later died, allegedly from the negligence.
The surgeon thus far denies liability. In order to do that successfully, however, he will have to dispute the facts alleged by the plaintiff. He’ll have to counter the charges that he failed to tell the patient of the three-month limit and that he took no action whatsoever to do the necessary follow-up.
The plaintiff’s allegations, if proven, would make the surgeon negligent in Maryland and every other jurisdiction. The surgeon must counter the factual allegations against him. It appears that through expert testimony, the estate is prepared to show that the sepsis occurred from surgeon error and a lack of proper instructions and follow-up care with the patient. If the case doesn’t settle before trial, the jury will be the ultimate fact-finder of these potentially disputed facts.