Hysterectomy--the surgical removal of a woman's uterus- is one of the most common surgeries in the world. Approximately 600,000 hysterectomies are performed annually in the United States, and approximately 20 million American women have had a hysterectomy. By the age of 60, more than one-third of all women have had a hysterectomy.
By now, gynecologists and surgeons know very well how to avoid unnecessary injuries during hysterectomy operations. They have equipment, techniques and safety rules that should make injuries to women's ureters or bladder or bowels impossible except in very rare cases. But these injuries still occur far too often.
I just settled another one of these cases for a very nice lady who had no clue what she was in for when she went in for her hysterectomy. Lisa (not her real name) sustained an injury to her colon during the surgery, and the surgeon didn't realize it until days later. During that time, Lisa was leaking large amounts of blood--and the doctors office kept telling her it was "normal", without investigating. By the time Lisa gave up on her doctor and had her husband take her to the emergency room, Lisa was in real trouble. She had to have emergency surgery to remove over a foot of her bowels, and had to wear a colostomy bag for months while the surgery healed. The embarrassment and disfigurement Lisa ended up with were terrible and will be with her forever.
And all because her gynecologist didn't follow basic safety rules.
Over the years my team has handled far too many cases like Lisa's case. In all of the cases, the problem wasn't that the surgeon didn't have good training or state of the art equipment. The problem was that the surgeon decided to take a risk that he shouldn't have taken--that he should have known better than to take.
These cases, and many others like them, prove the basic point that doctors are human, and unless they are forced to follow the safety rules of their profession, some of them won't.
That's what medical malpractice is--and enforcing those safety rules is what our courts are for.