Endoscopy is a relatively safe medical procedure that rarely results in serious side effects. This article discusses those side effects, guidelines for determining if medical negligence has occurred when something goes wrong during endoscopy, and what's involved in an injured patient's medical malpractice lawsuit.
When performing an endoscopy, your doctor inserts an endoscope (a plastic tube with a camera and light attached) down your esophagus or into your rectum to examine the various parts of your digestive tract. The endoscope may also be used to collect tissue samples for a biopsy, remove pre-cancerous polyps and insert devices to stop ulcer bleeding. A type of endoscopy called an endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography procedure (ERCP) can also be used to move or remove gall stones.
Endoscopies very rarely result in serious injury. Potential risks include bleeding at the tissue or polyp removal sight, infection, side-effects from the sedation administered before the procedure, and perforation of the stomach wall or other site.
With the exception of perforation, the occurrence of any of the risks listed above is not likely to amount to malpractice. Medical negligence occurs when your doctor fails to live up to the standards of a reasonably skilled practitioner in his or her field.
Bleeding, infection and sedation side-effects are somewhat unavoidable side-effects of endoscopy, and in all likelihood your doctor warned you of those risks. In some extreme cases that might be the result of malpractice, the infection might be caused by contaminated equipment or the wrong sedative having been administered.
Perforation, on the other hand, could be the result of unprofessional carelessness, i.e. negligence. There is no easy way to tell ahead of time because a jury must decide whether malpractice occurred after hearing conflicting testimony from endoscopy experts for both sides (the injured patient and the doctor).
You should be aware that special laws and procedural rules are specifically designed to make suing a doctor more difficult than suing "ordinary" defendants. These include:
If you win your case, how much you recover will all depend on the extent of the extra medical treatment and medical bills stemming from the malpractice, any lost wages and other concrete expenses, as well as the dollar amount the jury puts on your pain and suffering. As mentioned above, keep in mind that some states have put damage caps on how much a medical malpractice plaintiff can recover, regardless of what the jury awards.
As you've probably gathered by now, medical malpractice is a complicated legal field with a lot of hurdles and uncertainties. If you think that the harm you suffered after an endoscopy is out of the ordinary and may be the result of your doctor's negligence, then you should consult with an experience plaintiff's medical malpractice attorney.