Surgical Malpractice &
Hip Replacement Problems

Introduction

The purpose of this page is to define surgical malpractice and to set it in the wider context of medical malpractice.

If an individual is having problems with a hip implant, one of the possible root causes is that there may have been a mistake made before, during or after surgery by one of the healthcare professionals involved.

People often search online for a range of general terms related to medical malpractice, including: surgical malpractice and, quite commonly, hip replacement malpractice.

There is potential for confusion, so occurred to me that it may be helpful to provide a little structure and context on the relationships between these different terms - hence this page.

Context

The diagram below illustrates the relative relationships between different categories and levels of medical malpractice.

Surgical malpractice is simply one sub-category of the wider classification: medical malpractice. In turn, hip replacement malpractice is simply one specific example of surgical malpractice.

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Click on the Diagram (above) to view a larger version; then Click on the 'Close' button or the dark area around the expanded image to return to the original page. Check out the Key to the diagram for definitions / explanations of the symbols & colours used (n.b. the Key opens in a new browser window).

So what is Surgical Malpractice?

Surgical malpractice occurs where the standard of care that a patient receives from healthcare professionals (before, during or after his hip replacement surgery) falls short of the standard of care he could reasonably expect to receive.

Examples of malpractice during surgery include:

  1. Wrong site surgery - surgery is performed on the wrong part or side of the body for example, the right hip is resurfaced when in fact the left hip was the problem, or vice versa.
  2. Surgical equipment malfunction - a tool or piece of equipment used during surgery breaks or malfunctions causing injury to the patient
  3. Wrong type of blood - if a blood transfusion or blood products are used as part of the surgery then they should be compatible with the blood type of the patient.
  4. Retained surgical instruments - instruments or sometimes consumables such as sponges or gauze are left inside the patient's body a mistake.

There are other risks that can arise from hip replacement and are related to malpractice (medical / surgical), such as infection due to a failure in hospital hygiene. For example:

  • failure on part of the hospital to properly disinfect an operating theatre; multiple patients suffer the same infection - all cases link back to that specific operating theatre
  • infection in an air conditioning system that serves multiple operating theatres

These are examples of corporate negligence where potentially the hospital (organisation) is at fault, rather than individual healthcare professionals.

Surgical Malpractice - Deconstructed

In law, medical malpractice (or any lower level sub-classification, such as mistakes made during surgery) is classified as a tort of negligence.

In order for an alleged case of surgical malpractice to be proven, the plaintiff must prove each of the following four component parts:

  1. That a duty was owed by the healthcare professional to the plaintiff. Typically, a duty of care exists whenever a healthcare professional undertakes care of or provides treatment to a patient.
  2. That the duty of care was breached - the healthcare professional failed to meet the standard of care that the patient could reasonably expect to receive.
  3. That the breach of the duty of care caused injury to the plaintiff, or put another way, that the breach of duty of care was the cause of the injury.
  4. Damage, harm or loss: the plaintiff must be able to evidence that he has suffered harm as a result of the injury. This will form the basis of any legal claim. In a surgical malpractice case, damage is typically defined as the presence of one or more physical injuries, or adverse medical symptoms, which result in:
    • Financial loss: for example, loss of earnings; additional medical expenses or
    • Emotional injuries: for example, stress, anxiety.

Note, the same logical order approach to proving a case will apply to any other example of medical malpractice.

See also: defective hip implants (product liability lawsuits); and hip replacement malpractice.