Over the last 20 years, weight loss surgery, also known as bariatric surgery or obesity surgery, has become more and more common as a way for patients to lose significant weight quickly and try to improve the quality of their lives. It has also become big business for surgeons and hospitals with progressive growth in the number of surgeons claiming to specialize in such procedures and in hospital-based weight loss surgery programs. Because these procedures are often not covered by insurance, they can be lucrative for both the surgeons performing them and hospitals where they are performed.
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What Does Bariatric Surgery Do?
Types of Weight Loss Procedures
Consequences of Weight Loss Surgeries
Potential Complications of Bariatric Procedures
Were You Adequately Warned About a Procedure’s Risks?
Healthcare Provider Responsibility
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Compensation Available After a Surgical Error
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Bariatric surgery is used to help a patient lose weight. There are many different types of bariatric surgery, but all share the same goal of causing weight loss. In order to induce weight loss, bariatric surgeries make changes to a patient’s digestive system that limit how much the patient can eat. This may involve dividing the stomach into smaller sections, limiting the amount of food that can enter the stomach at a time or removing part of the stomach. Reducing the body’s capacity to store food can result in a decrease in appetite and resultant weight loss for the patient. These surgeries may also reduce the number of nutrients that a patient’s body can absorb.
There are several types of weight loss surgery procedures, including Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, gastric banding, gastric sleeve and duodenal switch with pancreatic diversion. All of these surgeries are designed to produce rapid weight loss. A gastric bypass places staples in the stomach that create a small pouch in the upper section and a larger pouch in the lower section. Then, the surgeon divides the small intestine into two parts and attaches one to the small stomach pouch, meaning food will bypass the larger part of the stomach.
Gastric banding involves placing a ring with an inflatable band around the top of the stomach to create a small pouch. The ring will make the patient feel full after eating a smaller amount of food. A gastric sleeve removes most of the stomach, leaving behind a banana-shaped portion that is closed with staples to reduce the amount of food the stomach can hold. A biliopancreatic diversion with a duodenal switch is two separate procedures. The first is similar to a gastric sleeve. The second divides the small intestine in half to bypass most of it, reducing the number of calories (and nutrients) absorbed.
While weight loss surgery can have significant benefits for the patient, it also presents a variety of serious short and long-term risks. It is therefore critical that these procedures only be performed on appropriate patients, by properly credentialed surgeons, and in hospitals with the expertise to promptly recognize and address the potential complications.
Weight loss surgery should only be performed on patients who have demonstrated that they cannot achieve weight loss by improving their diet and exercise habits and/or who have serious health problems as a result of their weight. To qualify for weight loss surgery, patients should generally have a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher or a BMI of 35-40 with a serious weight-related health problem.
Bariatric procedures are major surgeries that come with serious potential complications. Even if medical malpractice did not cause the initial complication, if a surgeon failed to react appropriately to the complication or a doctor did not provide adequate follow-up care, there could still be grounds for filing a malpractice claim. Examples of bariatric surgery complications include:
Bariatric surgery complications can significantly impact a patient’s quality of life post-operation or even result in death. Certain patients are at a higher risk of suffering complications from bariatric surgery, such as those with a history of heart or lung disease. It is a doctor’s responsibility to warn these patients of their increased risk. Failure to do so is another form of medical malpractice.
As a patient considering bariatric surgery, you must give your informed consent before undergoing the procedure. You must be adequately informed or warned by a doctor or surgeon of all of the potential benefits, risks and alternatives to a surgery before giving your consent or permission to undergo the operation. If your health care provider did not adequately warn you about the risks, complications, side effects and drawbacks of bariatric surgery (including a risk of serious injury or death), this constitutes medical malpractice.
It is the responsibility of the surgical team and hospital to closely monitor weight loss surgery patients during and after surgery, including long after the patient has left the hospital. Because weight loss surgery patients are often in relatively poor health, major surgery presents more risks to them than it may to the average person. In addition, because of their body habitus, weight loss surgery patients tend to decompensate more quickly than other patients, meaning that any complications can happen more quickly and with more severe results.
Medical mistakes causing injuries or death in weight loss surgery patients tend to occur as a result of the following:
If you believe your bariatric surgeon, a member of the surgical team, your weight loss doctor, a physician assistant, a nurse or another health care provider acted below the required standards of care and this caused you to suffer an injury, infection or complication, contact an attorney in Philadelphia right away. A bariatric surgery error attorney can review your case and investigate whether it has merit. If so, your lawyer can guide you through the steps that are required to hold one or more parties accountable for your injury or a loved one’s death.
An attorney will handle the legal process from start to finish. This includes the preservation and collection of evidence to support your claim, complicated claims-filing procedures, witness interviews, insurance settlement negotiations, and presenting your case to the jury during a surgical error trial in Philadelphia County. Your lawyer will file claims against the parties responsible for your injuries and will fight for maximum financial compensation.
Medical malpractice claims in Pennsylvania are complicated and difficult to navigate. An attorney will know all of the laws and statutes relevant to your case and will make sure that your rights are protected. Your attorney can file your claim before Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations (two years, in most cases), fulfill the certificate of merit requirement and help you meet the burden of proof. You can rest and focus on healing while your lawyer deals with the legal legwork of your bariatric surgery error claim.
If you or a loved one are a victim of a bariatric surgical error, the patient may be able to recover financial compensation for the harm caused by his or her injury. A successful medical malpractice claim in Philadelphia could result in a financial recovery for all past and estimated future losses, including:
Discuss the potential value of your claim with one of our medical malpractice attorneys at Youman & Caputo for more information. Do not accept the first settlement offer from an insurance company before contacting an attorney. We can help you avoid accepting less than you deserve for serious harm suffered due to a bariatric surgery error.
If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of weight loss surgery, contact us today for a free consultation. Youman & Caputo has successfully handled many cases involving bariatric surgery error claims. Our Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyers understand the surgeries and know how to properly assess and prosecute these cases.
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