The 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission has been big news in Houston and, for that matter, all over America. For generations, the bravery and heroism of the Apollo astronauts have captured the minds and imaginations of people everywhere.
In the middle of the semi-centennial Apollo 11 celebration, an anonymous leaker sent a newspaper a package of secret documents about alleged medical malpractice and a hushed $6 million settlement involving the death of national hero Neil Armstrong.
Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, died in a Cincinnati hospital in 2012, from complications of a coronary bypass surgery. After his death, his sons hired a renowned heart expert to review the medical records and find out what happened. This medical expert concluded that the Cincinnati hospital made fatal mistakes, but also that Armstrong most likely didn’t need a bypass surgery in the first place. The hospital paid $6 million to settle the claim confidentially.
As an experienced Houston, Texas medical malpractice attorney, I’ve handled numerous cases where a patient was severely injured or died because of a surgery that probably wasn’t needed in the first place.
Someone once said, “If your only tool’s a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Some medical experts think that there are surgeons who behave that way. In other words, some surgeons don’t consider less-invasive medical options but instead recommend their patients go straight to the operating room.
The truth is, any time a patient goes to surgery or receives general anesthesia, there are risks. It’s important that a surgeon explains these risks in a process called informed consent. Under Texas law, informed consent must be obtained by a physician—it can’t be delegated to a nurse—to proceed with the proposed surgery or treatment.
A sufficient informed consent conversation involves discussing and comparing the risks and benefits of all available treatment options, as well as the option of doing nothing. If a physician doesn’t do this, then there really isn’t informed consent. If the additional information would have caused a reasonable patient to choose against going forward with a dangerous, invasive procedure, there may be a medical malpractice claim for the failure to obtain informed consent.
You can improve your safety as a patient by insisting on having an informed consent conversation with your physician or surgeon before making the decision to proceed with elective surgery. Because many physicians, cardiologists, and surgeons tend to leave out the risks and benefits of alternative procedures or medical treatments, I think it’s a good idea to ask specifically about your other options. If time permits, you may also consider getting a second opinion before making a final decision.
If you’ve been seriously injured because of surgical complications or an unnecessary surgery, contact a top-rated, experienced Houston, Texas medical malpractice attorney for help in evaluating your potential claim.