Unsterilized Medical Equipment May Constitute Surgical Malpractice

Surgery EquipmentsAccording to internal documents and other sources, a large number of allegedly negligent incidents involving surgical patients being exposed to dirty, unsterilized, medical equipment have occurred over many years within the Detroit Medical Center, which is comprised of five separate medical hospitals. These alarming events have put patients at a significant risk for health related complications and at a much higher level in comparison with other parts of the United States. Some believe that part of the problem apparently is that the technicians (who make $18 an hour) are required to sterilize thousands of tools every day to very specific standards.

In some circumstances, doctors had to cancel surgical procedures, surgeries were interrupted due to the lack of necessary tools, or if they had the tools, they were unsanitary and unsterilized. There were reports of pieces of bone tissue and old blood from prior surgeries caught in suction tubes, bloody surgical tools placed on sterile trays, as well as necessary surgical tools and equipment not being available, or even missing. While the proper sanitized tools were being located, operations such as appendectomies, spinal fusions, and brain surgeries were delayed and some patients were left unnecessarily under anesthesia for up to an hour in the process. At least on two occasions, a child’s skull or chest was already opened for surgery, when the problems were discovered. In just a two month period of time, staffers reported that the wrong cauterizing tool was employed during surgery which burned a child’s lip, that blood covered instruments were present on a sterilized tray, that dried blood was found on a sterilized drill, that hairs were found on instruments, and that bone was found on a neurosurgery tool called a rongeur.

The current Mayor of Detroit was a former administrator for the Detroit Medical Center, and like many other past administrators, was never able to solve the problem, which has apparently been running rampant for over a decade. According to some sources, the culture at the Detroit Medical Center gave way to a circular pattern of appointing a new administrator, running him or her ragged, blaming, terminating, and then repeating. The problem in Detroit is not unique, in that unsterile and unsanitary surgical equipment situations happen across the country, but the level of incidents in Detroit was much higher than the level accepted in the industry. Recently, as many as 12,000 children at Seattle’s Children’s Hospital may have come into contact with tiny bits of bone and blood on contaminated instruments, exposing them to a host of possible diseases. In Ann Arbor, the Veterans Administration Healthcare System shut down its operating room and transferred its heart surgeries elsewhere temporarily, after unsanitary conditions were discovered. In another case, open heart surgery needed to be stopped on a 7 month old girl when the bypass machine was found clogged with coagulated blood from another procedure. In cities all across the country, such as Chicago, this is a persistent and dangerous problem.

The problem with exposure to unsterilized equipment during an operation is that doctors and hospitals are not generally required to inform a patient when it happens. The federal Centers for Disease Control have no regulatory authority over such hospitals although they do collect data. If a patient suspects they are at risk, they should specifically discuss the matter with the doctor who performed the procedure. If a possible exposure may have led to a serious health complication or death post-surgery, one can also have the hospital administration review the case as a “sentinel event”, meaning a preventable incident that involved serious harm. But it is very unlikely that a hospital will ever admit to such negligence. It is often best to just obtain your own medical records from the hospital records department and contact a medical malpractice lawyer immediately.

Exposure to unsanitary equipment is a dangerous problem that can lead to life-long permanent injury, exposure to serious infection, HIV, Hepatitis C, sepsis, or wrongful death. If you, or a loved one, or even just a friend or someone you know, has been affected bythe negligence of a medical professional, then it is time to call the Chicago medical malpractice lawyers at Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC, and let our experience and knowledge work for you to make sure that those injured receive justice from those responsible. Call us today at (312) 644-0444 for an absolutely free, no obligation consultation.