Stomach stapling surgery is more often referred to as gastric bypass surgery. This specific surgery procedure has long been advertised as a solution for those who want to lose a considerable amount of weight. The amount of surgeries performed reaches over 200,000 every year.
Gastric bypass surgery is an elective and invasive surgical procedure that was originally designed to treat morbid obesity. A patient is considered to be morbidly obese when their obesity is so severe that it has put the patient at an immediate risk of severe health problems. Additionally, the patient has been unable to treat their obesity through diet and exercise measures.
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. This also reduces the volume of the patient’s stomach by over 90%, the effect of which is that the patient is unable to consume as much food in a single sitting, reducing the amount of food they intake.
As with all major surgery, there is a potential for medical complications. Gastric bypass surgery carries approximately a 7% complication rate for laparoscopic procedures, to 14.5% for operations through open incisions, as well as a 90 day postoperative mortality rate of 0.3%.
Generally speaking, doctors will not prescribe or suggest stomach stapling surgery unless other forms of weight loss have been both attempted and failed. Similar to any other surgical procedure, stomach stapling surgeries are associated with various risks of side effects, harm, or injury.
Some common examples include, but may not be limited to:
- Infection, frequently due to a failure to follow sanitation instructions or procedures;
- Blood clots;
- Bleeding and ulcers;
- Scarring of the abdomen; and/or
- Enlargement of the stomach pouch.
There are additional health risks that can also be present after the surgery. An example of this would be how after the surgery, the patient’s stomach will be significantly smaller and able to hold less volume than before. As such, vomiting, nausea, or other symptoms can occur if they eat more than the pouch can hold. Another common risk is that the line of staples and the band holding the pouch together may erode over time. This could cause stomach juices to leak into the abdomen, which would require emergency surgery.
What Is Medical Malpractice? What Is Stomach Stapling Surgery Malpractice?
Medical malpractice is the legal term for failing to fulfill a legal duty of care as a medical professional. If a:
- Surgery center; or
- Other party that is legally responsible for providing quality medical care causes direct harm to a client under their care, they may be sued for medical malpractice.
In terms of stomach stapling surgery specifically, common malpractice claims are centered on internal leaking due to faulty procedure. Another common focus would be internal bleeding of the stomach based on failed surgery methods. Additionally, blood clots and floating blood clots can occur as a result of stomach stapling surgery. Such symptoms can be very serious and can even lead to death within a short period of time if the symptoms are not diagnosed and immediately treated.
Other examples of medical malpractice associated with a stomach stapling or gastric bypass surgery may include, but not be limited to:
- Failure to adhere to recommended sanitation and cleaning procedures;
- Leaving a sponge, bandage, or other similar item inside the patient’s body;
- Failure to provide proper instructions for post-surgery care; and/or
- Providing incorrect medications associated with the surgery.
It is imperative to note that as with all medical malpractice cases, the fact that the gastric bypass surgery went wrong or had a poor result does not, in and of 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 any reasonable doctor would have done. This would apply before the surgery, during the surgery, or during the postoperative period.
Doctors have a legal obligation to act with a certain degree of care when performing potentially dangerous activities. They breach that duty when they fail to uphold the accepted standard of care expected of their field. That breach of duty is considered to be negligence. The patient must then be able to prove that the doctor’s negligence was directly responsible for their injury. Additionally, they have suffered either economic or non-economic damages in order to have a valid cause of action.
Because the parties to the lawsuit, as well their respective lawyers and judges, are not usually medical experts, determining whether the doctor failed to act in an accepted medical standard of care as a similar doctor would have done in the situation is usually done with the expertise of expert witnesses.
Such expert witnesses are generally doctors in the field that have performed numerous similar gastric bypass procedures, and are able to clarify whether another doctor’s conduct was reasonable given the circumstances of the situation.
Can I File A Claim For A Stomach Stapling Surgery? What If The Injury Was Caused By A Defective Medical Instrument?
As previously mentioned, malpractice claims are often based on negligence. To elaborate, in order to prove negligence, the plaintiff must prove:
- Duty of Care: The defendant had a direct and legal obligation to provide a specific quality of care to the plaintiff. Generally speaking, the duty of care will be the medical standards that a doctor of similar experience and training would employ;
- Breach of Duty of Care: There must also be a proven breach of a duty of care in order to proceed with a medical negligence case. In the case of a medical negligence case, this would mean that something that was supposed to happen did not happen in terms of medical treatment. An example of this would be if the doctor fails to clean a surgical instrument, and an infection occurs as a result;
- Causation of Harm: Actual physical, substantial harm must have been caused to the plaintiff in order for a medical malpractice claim to proceed; and
- Damages: The harm must have resulted in measurable damages to the patient. The damages must be calculable and may be based on economic costs such as costs associated with additional surgery, lost wages, and other similar damages.
In some stomach stapling surgery injury cases, the injury is not actually caused by a doctor or medical professional. Rather, injuries can occur due to defective medical devices or products. An example of this would be if a surgical instrument is contaminated with bacteria or a virus. There is a chance that the manufacturer of that product would be held liable under product liability laws. Another example would be when a medical pump fails during the surgery, resulting in injury to the patient.
Defective product lawsuits may be based on a variety of different legal theories, including:
- Manufacturing defects, which occur during the assembly process;
- Design defects, which are products that fail because they were designed improperly; or
- Warning label defects, which are products that fail to include proper safety warnings regarding the dangers associated with use of the product.
Do I Need An Attorney For Issues With Stomach Stapling Surgery?
If you had stomach stapling surgery done and believe that your doctor committed malpractice, or was otherwise negligent, you will need to consult with an area personal injury attorney. Personal injury laws can vary greatly from state to state.
An experienced and local lawyer will be best suited to helping you understand your state’s laws regarding malpractice, liability, negligence, and personal injury. An attorney can also help determine who you should file a claim against, and will also be able to represent you in court, as needed.