The Problem with Unclean Medical Instruments
Surgery is one of the most traumatic experiences the human body can undertake. In addition to anesthesia and other injections, the body may experience cuts by scalpel, stitches, removal of tissue and many other experiences, each of which will have an effect on the body once it recovers from the anesthetics. Given that the patient is unconscious, he/she must completely place his/her trust in all medical personnel involved with a surgery, with the assumption that the procedure will go well, and the patient will emerge in better shape. In many cases, this is how surgeries work. However, in some cases, this trust is misplaced, and surgical error occurs. Recently, a story about a sterilization breach at a Denver hospital, in which surgical instruments were improperly cleaned for a period of nearly two years, exposing an unknown number of patients to the risk of HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C infection, illustrates potential ramifications of a specific type of surgical error – that of unclean medical instruments. A discussion of unclean medical instruments, and what one can do if one is harmed as a result of their use, will follow below.
Unclean Medical Instruments
Unclean medical instruments used in a surgical setting can easily lead to an infectious outbreak that may take days, weeks or months to appear. This is because using unsanitary medical instruments as a part of a surgery can often cause cross-contamination of various diseases, including those that are life-threatening. Further, this potential cross-contamination can pose significant problems not only for patients with compromised immune systems, but the very nature of surgery itself, in which the human body is physically opened up and exposed to the atmosphere and anything that touches it, including the medical instruments, poses a high risk of infection.
Historically, medical instruments were made of steel or glass, and, as such, required a very simple sterilization. Nowadays, medical instruments may now be polymer-based, and include many moving parts. These require different methods of sterilization. Unfortunately, the sterilization of medical instruments, and specifically surgical instruments, typically occurs in an atmosphere that may not lend itself to proper sterilization and cleaning, which is very time-consuming. Typically, surgical instruments are sterilized in a central facility and sent back to the operating room. Time, the degree of sediment on the instruments, and the ease of cleaning are additional factors that will affect whether the instruments were properly cleaned.
When unclean medical instruments are used in surgeries, a serious concern and common result is infection. In addition, exposure to the unclean instruments may also mean a prolonged recovery period, the diseases mentioned above (as well as other related diseases), or even death. Such a result may be evidence of medical malpractice.
Medical malpractice occurs when a hospital, doctor or other health care professional, through a negligent act or omission, causes an injury to a patient. In this case, the malpractice is the result of improper treatment. To succeed in a medical malpractice case, an injured patient must prove the following:
- The violation of a medical standard of care. Medical standards of care are generally accepted standards by which all medical personnel must abide.
- An injury. The violation of the medical standard of care must have led to the patient’s injury.
- The injury must lead to discernable damages, such as disability, additional medical treatment, suffering, etc.
Seek Legal Advice
If you have recently undergone a surgical procedure, from which you are still suffering effects, seek counsel from an experienced medical malpractice attorney. If the effects are the result of negligence on the part of medical personnel, you should not have to shoulder the burden of their failure. The attorneys at Pita Weber & Del Prado have the experience to determine whether your suffering is the result of negligent treatment. Contact our Miami office today for a free consultation.