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A Towel Left in Patient After Surgery


According to the News Herald, a surgeon left a towel in a woman following surgery. The woman was diagnosed with colon cancer. The physician informed the patient that she would have to undergo surgery of the colon, known as resection. Trusting the advice of the medical personnel, the woman consented to the surgery.

When the surgery was performed, a surgical towel was apparently left in the woman’s upper abdomen. The towel was one foot by two feet. As is typical in cases of instruments left in a patient’s body, the towel was not discovered until four months following the surgery. A follow-up surgery had to be performed to remove the towel. The presence of the towel in the women’s abdomen caused significant damage.

A family representative said, “the loss of the bowel interfered with her ability to keep food from rushing through her system and has caused an inability for her to eat many foods, frequent bowel movements and the inability to leave her house.”

The woman filed suit for medical malpractice. The case did not settle; the parties went to trial. It was shocking that the case went to trial since the medical negligence was apparent. The woman clearly did not have a towel inside of her before the surgery, thus the surgeon was responsible for the towel. However, this case shows no claim is ever a slam-dunk. Even if a case is seemingly obvious there is no guarantee that litigation will be avoided. Even if the defense knows they were liable, the parties usually disagree over the number of damages the defendant owes the plaintiff.

As a result, it is always wise to be prepared for trial, and have an experienced attorney who can try the case if the case does not settle.