‘Botched’ surgery bill prompts lawsuit

Hospital administrators can all cite cases in which malpractice suits could have been averted with proper patient communication.

Here’s an example given by Steve Steiber, PhD, senior vice president for ORC Health Care, an Evanston, IL-based opinion-research company:

A patient undergoes minor surgery at a hospital and is sent home to recuperate. He develops a fever and the site around the incision swells. The patient is readmitted and surgeons open the wound, where they discover a surgical sponge had been left inside during the initial procedure.

Thirty days later, the patient receives a bill for the second surgery to remove the sponge. At this point, the patient threatens to sue.

"There was no mention of a suit before that bill arrived," Steiber says. "His situation falls under the category of ‘what were they thinking!’ Satisfaction is definitely an intervening variable in the decision to sue. If a hospital or physician botches a situation, they are at risk. But if they really want to start trouble, get that patient upset."