Losing a limb or part of a limb is one of the most devastating things that can happen to a person. Amputations typically happen under tragic, catastrophic circumstances that can scar a person emotionally as well as physically. The loss of a hand, foot, arm, or leg is disfiguring and can be permanently disabling.
About two million Americans currently live with amputations. Advances in prosthetics help many people who have suffered amputations to re-gain much functionality, but the loss of part of someone’s body nonetheless alters that person’s life forever.
It’s sad enough when someone loses a limb in combat or in a car accident, but there’s something particularly egregious when the loss happens because a medical provider made a mistake. We trust doctors and nurses with our well-being and often with our lives. When they make mistakes, the consequences can be dire.
If you or someone you love has suffered an amputation because of a mistake made by a medical provider, a medical malpractice lawyer may be able to help. The mistake catastrophic enough to lead to amputation very likely is negligence, and you may be able to make a medical malpractice claim. Through a medical malpractice claim, you may be able to recover compensation for:
Medical bills including the costs of expensive prosthetics and rehabilitation
Loss of income, including future wages if you can no longer work in your chosen field
Pain and suffering you experienced
Medical Causes of Amputation
There are a number of medical reasons why a doctor may decide that amputation is necessary.
- Poor Circulation — Several chronic medical conditions can cause damage to the arteries that in turn affects how well blood flows through the body. Peripheral artery disease causes arteries to narrow and become damaged; high blood pressure can cause damage to arteries; high cholesterol can cause blockages that impede blood flow; uncontrolled diabetes can mean high amounts of glucose in the blood over long periods of time affect the flow of blood by allowing plaque to build up in the arteries. When circulation is poor, blood isn’t effectively delivering oxygen and nutrients to organs and tissues and tissue can start to die or become prone to infection. When tissue dies, amputation may be necessary.
- Infection — Serious infections that don’t respond to antibiotics or other treatments can cause tissue to die and ultimately require amputation to prevent the spread of the infection to other parts of the body or the bloodstream.
- Serious Injury — This could include crushing injuries or burns experienced in auto collisions or workplace accidents.
- Tumor — Cancerous tumors in bones or muscles in the limb may require amputation.
- Frostbite — Frostbite happens when tissue freezes. Frostbite can damage or kill tissue in the fingers, toes, hands, feet, or face. If the tissue is too severely damaged to be saved, amputation may be necessary.
Common Causes of Wrongful Amputation
When doctors, nurses, or other medical professionals make a mistake in your treatment and you experience harm because of the mistake, that may be malpractice. Actions that may be negligent and give rise to a malpractice claim include:
- Misdiagnosis, Failure to Diagnose, Delayed Diagnosis — If a physician misdiagnoses or fails to diagnose a disease or medical condition such as an infection, peripheral artery disease, or diabetes, amputation may be a consequence of failing to treat the correct illness. Misdiagnosis could be due to interpreting X-rays or other test results incorrectly or failing to interpret symptoms correctly.
- Failure to Treat or Wrong Treatment — If a physician diagnoses the correct medical condition, but fails to follow up with appropriate treatment for an infection or to control diabetes, the untreated medical condition may lead to amputation. This is especially true for bacterial infections, which can quickly spiral out of control if not effectively treated.
- Chart Errors — If the doctor, nurse, or hospital staff mixed up a chart, wrote down the wrong information, or failed to note important information in the chart and amputation was the result, that may be malpractice.
Consequences of Wrongful Amputation
Amputations have very serious consequences and should usually be a last resort when other treatments failed, or amputation is necessary to save the patient’s life or other parts of the body, such as amputating part an infected foot to prevent losing the leg.
Some of the high costs of amputation for a patient include:
- Disability — Even with a prosthetic limb, you’re likely to be unable to do everything you did before the amputation and will lose some functionality. You may not be able to keep doing your job, especially if it’s something physical such as construction work. You may need job retraining, or you might not be able to work at all following an amputation.
- Phantom Limb Pain — Many people who suffer amputations experience sensations of pain in the area where the missing limb used to be — even though no limb is there.
- Amputation Neuroma — Lower limb amputees may experience trauma to nerves that causes pain and may require additional surgery.
- Infection — Amputation sites may be prone to infection that requires additional excision of tissue.
- Prosthetic Problems — You may have issues with the fit of a prosthetic limb or use of a prosthetic limb that may result in pain or disability.
- Muscle and Tissue Loss — You may lose muscle tone and additional tissue after an amputation.
- Depression — It is very common for people who have experienced amputations to have depression or post-traumatic stress disorder that requires treatment and counseling and may affect day-to-day living.
If you or someone you love has been impacted by an unnecessary or wrongful amputation, you may have a medical malpractice claim. How can you know? The best way to determine if you do is to contact an experienced Chicago malpractice attorney who can evaluate your case. Our attorneys offer free legal consultations. Call us at (312) 236-2900.