The number of elective gastric bypass procedures has increased in the recent years, likely due to how body conscious our society has become. Gastric bypass surgery has long been advertised as a solution for individuals who need to lose a substantial amount of weight, with the amount of surgeries performed reaching over 200,000 every year.

Gastric bypass surgery, otherwise known as stomach stapling surgery, is an elective and invasive surgical procedure designed to treat morbid obesity. A patient is considered morbidly obese when their obesity is so severe that it has put the patient at an immediate risk of severe health problems and the patient has been unable to treat their obesity through normal diet and exercise.

The gastric bypass surgery itself is performed by stapling, banding, or rerouting the stomach and small intestines so that the food and nutrition bypass the normal route that the food takes through the body, while reducing the volume of the patient’s stomach by over 90%. The result is that the patient is unable to consume as much food in a single sitting, thus reducing the amount of food they intake.

As a major surgery, there is a potential for medical complications. Gastric bypass surgery carries about a 7% complication rate for laparoscopic procedures to 14.5% for operations through open incisions, and a 90 day postoperative mortality rate of 0.3%.

When a complication occurs as a result of gastric bypass surgery, the result can be fatal if the patient isn’t treated immediately. Patients who have suffered a serious or fatal injury following a gastric bypass surgery may be able to file a medical malpractice suit against the surgeon.

What is Gastric Bypass Surgery Malpractice?

As with all medical malpractice cases, the fact that the gastric bypass surgery went wrong or had a poor result does not, by itself, create a cause of action to sue for medical malpractice. In order to have a valid cause of action, the patient must be able to prove that the doctor acted negligently by doing or failing to do something that a reasonable doctor would have done before the surgery, during the surgery, or post-operation.

A doctor has a legal obligation to act with a certain degree of care when performing potentially dangerous activities, such as a gastric bypass surgery, and a doctor breaches that duty when they fail to uphold the accepted standard of care in their field.

That breach of duty is considered negligence. The patient must then be able to prove that the doctor’s negligence was directly responsible for their injury and that they have suffered either economic or non-economic damages to have a valid cause of action.

Proving all of the required elements of a medical malpractice case, is not an easy or cheap matter. Because the parties to the lawsuit, their respective lawyers, and judges are not usually medical experts, the determination on if a doctor failed to act in an accepted medical standard of care as a similar doctor would have done in the situation, the determination is usually made by the expertise of expert witnesses.

These expert witnesses are normally doctors in the field that have performed numerous similar gastric bypass procedures, and are able to help paint the picture on if another doctor’s conduct was reasonable in the situation or not.

What are Some Common Types of Gastric Bypass Surgery Malpractice?

The most common complications of gastric bypass surgery include:

  • Internal gastric fluid leakage due to faulty procedure;
  • Internal bleeding of the stomach;
  • Pulmonary embolism, i.e. blood clots in the lungs (the possibility of death is very high here);
  • Bowel leakage at the operation site;
  • Hernias; and/or
  • Other various infections like abscesses, peritonitis, pneumonia, bladder infections, or sepsis.

Patients who have suffered a gastric bypass related injury may have grounds for a lawsuit if any of the above occurred, as well as if the following occurred:

  • The doctor failed to diagnose postoperative infections or bleeding;
  • The doctor failed to respond to a patient’s complaints of pain, which led to serious injury or death;
  • The patient suffered an intra-abdominal hemorrhage;
  • Failure to abide by proper sanitation and cleaning procedures;
  • Leaving a sponge, bandage, or other similar item inside the patient’s body;
  • Failure to provide proper instructions for after-surgery care;
  • Providing incorrect medications in connection with the surgery; and/or
  • Failure to warn patients who were at higher risk of complications of their heightened risk before the surgery.

Do I Need an Attorney for Gastric Bypass Surgery Malpractice?

If you or your loved one have experienced any of the above complications from a gastric bypass surgery, than it is important to consult the assistance of a well qualified personal injury attorney right away. A personal injury attorney that specializes in medical malpractice can help you file your claim, gather up evidence and expert witnesses, argue on your behalf, and even represent you in court if necessary.

The vast majority of personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, meaning that they will foot the court costs associated with filing and maintaining your personal injury claim, and will only take a percentage of your net recovery as payment for their legal services.

In a medical malpractice case, the much needed hiring of expert witnesses can be an expensive process, and an experienced personal injury attorney can help you find qualified expert witnesses to help with you claim.  Cost should not be a barrier for you to obtain legal counsel and assistance in navigating the road to your recovery.