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Issues surrounding negligent postoperative care

A recent article explores the issue of medical record keeping in the context of doctor errors.

Specifically, a doctor noticed a discrepancy between a patient’s medical records and his recollection of a cataract surgery that he had witnessed. The doctor remembered that the hospital’s ventilator had malfunctioned during the procedure, pumping too much air and causing one of the patient’s lungs to collapse. That complication, in turn, led to a heart attack.

Yet in the patient’s records, there was no mention of the device failure. Nor did the patient know the cause of his cardiac incident. As a medical malpractice attorney might agree, a doctor’s duty of care requires full disclosure of material facts at every stage of treatment. Before a procedure is performed, a patient has a right to know of any potential risks or complications associated with the procedure or medication. Likewise, that duty of disclosure also applies after a procedure.

If a patient suspects that he or she received negligent postoperative care, an attorney might be helpful in evaluating all possible explanations. Although it might appear that a patient simply didn’t recover as well as expected, an attorney might be able to get at the real truth of the matter. With the help of medical experts, an attorney can investigate whether a health professional was responsible.

That inquiry is not limited to the primary doctor. Rather, an attorney can also examine whether nurses or other hospital staff adequately attended to a patient’s postoperative recovery. That duty of care might include preventing or treating infections, ensuring proper medication doses, and simply monitoring vital signs and any other changes in condition.

Source:, “How should doctors respond when a colleague makes a mistake?” Rose Egge, Oct. 30, 2013