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Wednesday, 24 January 2018 00:00

A veteran has filed a lawsuit after a scalpel was found left inside his body after a surgery.

Written by Jonathan Druckman

According to the lawsuit, it took four years for doctors to discover the sharp metal knife that had been accidently left inside the Army veteran’s body.

Glenford Turner had surgery back in 2013 at a Veterans Affair hospital in Connecticut. At that time he underwent a radical prostatectomy at the West Haven VA Connecticut Healthcare System. Prior to that time, he had spent 20 years serving in the United States Army before being honorably discharged.

After the surgery he suffered from abdominal pain but none of the medical professionals could figure out what was the source of his pain. Turner, who is now age 61, went in for an MRI scan in 2017 for an unrelated medical issue. According to the lawsuit, the magnet used by the MRI machine caused the metal scalpel to react inside his abdomen. The procedure had to be stopped because Mr. Turner was in an intense amount of pain as the surgical knife was actually moving inside of him. It is unclear whether the blade was still attached at the head of the scalpel or if only the handle had been left inside Mr. Turner. Either way, no foreign object should ever be left inside of a patient.

According to the lawsuit, the initial surgery took nearly 5 hours to complete, when it should have taken just one hour. After the surgery was complete, a standard X-ray procedure was never performed to ensure that no surgical equipment had been left inside Turner. It is astounding that the scalpel never pierced an internal organ while it was inside.

Mr. Turner’s lawyer stated, "It's perplexing to me how they could be so incompetent that a scalpel that really should only be on the exterior of your body not only goes into the body but then is sewn into the body." The complaint alleges that a trainee surgeon was the one who performed the operation that left resulted in the scalpel being left inside. His lawyer said that he expects the case to take some three years before a resolution is reached and stated that he hoped for a payment in excess of $1 million for Mr. Turner due to the egregious conduct by VA staff.

According to the Open Access Macedonian Journal of Medical Sciences, leaving foreign objects inside of patients may be more common than one might suspect. The Journal of Medical Sciences estimated that there are some 1,500 cases where items are left behind during procedures that occur in the United States every year. A 2013 USA Today review of scientific studies and legal records put the number of cases closer to 4,500 to 6,000 times per year. However, it is less common for doctors to forget scalpels inside of patients. Surgical sponges are the most common object left behind and can end up causing severe infections for patients. Screws, towels, and clamps have also been reportedly left inside people.

Cases like this, are referred to in the law as res ipsa loquitur, which means the nature of the accident or incident implies negligence. Clearly, something was very wrong in Mr. Turner’s case. The presence of a surgical object left inside the body, is evidence of negligence. While such lawsuits that involve the principle of res ipsa loquitir are rare, they do exist. If you underwent a surgical procedure and believe the doctor performed something incorrectly, you may be entitled to damages via a medical malpractice claim. Call the law office of Druckman & Hernandez to speak with one of our lawyers and find out how to protect your rights. 908-353-5850.

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