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Can miraculous surgeries be considered negligence?

Episodes from the popular television drama “Grey’s Anatomy” depict incredibly unusual, innovative and miraculous surgeries. In one episode, the doctors performed a miraculous surgery to save a man’s arm by attaching it to his abdomen. A young doctor came up with the idea at the last minute, while the man was under anesthesia.

When the man woke up, he was understandably very upset. The hospital was able to talk him out of it, because it was a television show. The details of the storyline beg the question, “What if this happened in real life?”

A very similar surgery did take place recently in Texas. An 87-year-old man from Missouri City was working on his car when the jack slipped. His hand became trapped, and the 100 degree Texas heat didn’t do him any favors. Instead, the heated metal left severe burns and led to serious infection.

A plastic surgeon from Houston was able to save a man’s fingers by embedding them into his abdomen. The doctor sewed the man’s hand under the skin, allowing new blood vessels to form and protecting the fingers. The man in this instance was thrilled, but he knew what was coming. He consented to the surgery before he went under.

Doctors do not perform this surgery often, but they have used this type of procedure before. The surgery is still rare, both unusual in frequency and in character. What if, as in our television example, the doctors did not ask for consent? What if the patient was not pleased with the result? What if the procedure didn’t work?

Medical malpractice comes in many forms. A doctor’s “good intentions” are not an excuse for poor choices or other negligent actions. Would a patient have been able to recover compensation for medical malpractice in the television example? We can’t give a definitive answer without further information, but these are some of the questions a lawsuit might raise.