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Should You File A Medical Malpractice Case If Your Elderly Loved One Dies After A Procedure At An Outpatient Clinic?

Have you recently lost an elderly relative or loved one during an outpatient procedure that you believe may have gone wrong? More than likely, their doctors warned you or the patient in advance that procedure or the use of anesthesia in the elderly could be dangerous, as they have less physiological reserve to handle the stress of surgery. Even so, if you have a nagging suspicion that your loved one's death was not caused by their age but possibly by negligence on the part of the doctor or the clinic, you should seek legal help. 

Outpatient Surgical Clinics Growing in Popularity

The popularity of outpatient surgery centers has grown dramatically in recent years. According to Medpage Today:

  • More than two-thirds of the operations performed in the United States are now done in these clinics.
  • There were 23 million procedures performed in outpatient clinics in 2011. That number in 2006 was approximately 15 million procedures performed in these clinics. 

Why are these clinics so popular?  For one thing, they tend to be less expensive than hospitals. In addition, some patients find them to be more patient-friendly. Unfortunately, these clinics may not be as ready as a hospital to deal with a complication that may occur during a procedure. And, sadly, when complications do arise with elderly people, they can quickly turn into much bigger problems than they would in a younger patient, according to Modern Healthcare. Because many outpatient surgery clinics are not able to handle life-and-death emergencies, they often have to call in 911, which could delay much-needed treatment. 

The Joan Rivers Case

The death of comedian Joan Rivers, 81, in 2014 brought to light the dangers of elderly patients having their procedures done in outpatient surgery centers. The comedian was in a New York City clinic to have minor throat surgery. During the procedure, her personal doctor decided that she wanted to perform a transnasal laryngoscopy even though Rivers had not signed paperwork authorizing it. Sadly, during this procedure, Rivers went into cardiac and respiratory arrest. While the clinic was able to resuscitate her, she had to be transported to a nearby hospital for further treatment. Rivers' daughter has now filed a medical malpractice and wrongful death suit against the outpatient clinic and the doctors involved in the procedure. 

What You Should Do

If you truly believe that your loved one died because of a medical malpractice situation, you will need to:

  • Be able to prove that the care the clinic provided to your elderly loved one was not up to the standard of care that another practitioner would have provided. In some cases, this may be difficult to prove, but an experienced medical malpractice attorney will work hard to unearth the necessary evidence. 
  • Prove that the death of your loved one was a direct result of your doctor's negligence. Your doctor's attorney will try to prove that your elderly loved one's death may have been the result of a pre-existing condition. For example, if your elderly loved one was having a procedure to treat a condition that had already weakened them, the attorney could argue that it was the condition and not the doctor's actions that caused the death. 
  • File a medical malpractice case within the required time period. According to Nolo, in most states you must file your case within six months to two years after the procedure was performed or after you first noticed the problems that resulted in the death of your loved one. This does vary from state to state, so you should talk to a medical malpractice attorney as soon as you believe you may have a case. 

Although winning a medical malpractice case against a negligent healthcare practitioner will not bring back your loved one, it could possibly bring you a little peace of mind and could also prevent another family from having to deal with the same devastating situation in the future. 

Click here to learn more, or talk to an experienced medical malpractice attorney.