Wrongful Death In Gastric Bypass Surgery

Surgical Errors and Defective Ethicon Stapler Contributing To Increased Death Rate

Although gastric bypass surgery has helped many patients through the admirable work of dedicated physicians, a significant number of patients unnecessarily die due to substandard care provided by a small minority of doctors and health care facilities. A recent study disclosed that patients’ risk of dying increased by 500% when treated by poorly trained or inexperienced surgeons. The most frequent cause of death in these cases is poor surgical technique and poor post-surgical monitoring and aftercare. Patients also have died unnecessarily as a result of a defective surgical stapler. The Ethicon stapler, manufactured by Ethicon Endo-Surgery, Inc, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, is used in the majority of gastric bypass surgeries. When the Ethicon stapler fails, acid and other stomach contents can leak and promptly lead to the patient’s death. In May of 2007, the Ethicon stapler was found defective in a Pennsylvania wrongful death trial.

JAMA Study Details Undisclosed Risks Of Death

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in October, 2005, the rates of death from gastric bypass surgery are far higher than previously disclosed. The study of over 16,000 patients found that, among 35 to 44-year-olds, more than 5 percent of men and nearly 3 percent of women were dead within a year, and slightly higher rates were seen in patients 45 to 54. Among patients 65 to 74, nearly 13 percent of men and about 6 percent of women died. In patients 75 and older, half of the men and 40 percent of the women died. With about 170,000 gastric bypass surgeries occurring each year in the United States, as many as 4,500 to 9,000 patients may die as a result of this surgery annually. This is more than double previous estimates.

Preventable deaths are sometimes caused by inexperienced surgeons
moving into the highly profitable area of gastric bypass surgery.

Precise mortality rates are presently impossible to establish because reporting practices often obscure the fact that the underlying cause of a death was gastric bypass surgery. It is clear, however, that mortality rates vary dramatically from surgeon to surgeon and hospital to hospital. According to a University of Washington survey, high death rates may be the result of inexperienced surgeons moving into this burgeoning and highly lucrative field. Physician fatigue, brought about by performing too many gastric bypass operations in a single day, may also result in errors leading to patient deaths.

Negligent Post-Operative Care Presents Great Risk

Most medical malpractice in gastric bypass surgery is the result of negligent post-operative care. Although gastric bypass surgery is technically complex, patients usually do not die from the procedure itself. Physician’s failure to properly monitor for and detect post surgical stomach perforations, leaks and infections is the most common cause of preventable death following gastric bypass surgery.

Undetected stomach perforations will often lead to death.

Doctors must be particularly cautious in post surgical monitoring of patients following bariatric surgery because obese patients are at higher risk of suture tears and pulmonary embolism. Perforations of the stomach that are not detected and treated in time will often cause the patient’s death from septic shock. If a patient develops a fever or a distended abdomen after surgery, this may be a sign of infection and leakage. Doctors must follow up on these symptoms according to appropriate medical standards. Most often, perforations and leaks are detected by x-ray or CT scan. However, exploratory surgery may be indicated if a patient has symptoms of a leak, regardless of whether or not the leak is evident from the CT scan or x-ray. In many cases there is an interplay between substandard surgical technique and inadequate post-operative care, both of which can compound and lead to patient deaths.

Wrongful Death Claims Regulate The Excesses Of For Profit Medicine

Where patients are killed as a result of substandard medical care related to gastric bypass surgery, or defective medical devices, it is entirely appropriate for their families to turn to the civil justice system to obtain justice and fair compensation. Bariatric surgery is a heavily advertised and highly profitable area of medical care. It is a multi-billion dollar industry for doctors, hospitals, and manufacturers of surgical staplers. Some surgeons perform over 300 gastric bypass operations per year and can earn about $6,000.00 for each procedure.

Ethicon and Johnson & Johnson have found that selling surgical staplers and other medical devices is extremely lucrative. Although Ethicon has received numerous reports of staple line failures, it has apparently failed to take essential steps to remedy this problem.

Negligent bariatric surgery often violates a patient’s right to life. When this happens, the family’s only option is to seek redress in a court of law.

With these privileges comes the responsibility to protect a patient’s right to proper medical care. When this right is violated, the patient’s right to life is all to often taken away. In these circumstances, the family’s only option is often to seek redress in a court of law.