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Medical malpractice a possibility in surgical fire case

Surgery is associated with numerous risks. But rarely is fire thought of as one of those risks. Last week, a New York City man was apparently burned as the result of a possible surgical error while undergoing surgery at Lincoln Hospital. If a surgeon's mistake caused the fire, this accident could lead to a medical malpractice suit.

The accident occurred as the patient underwent surgery to have a breathing tube inserted to help with lung problems.

An electrical scalpel used during the surgery seems to be the source of the fire. The scalpel gave off tiny sparks during the surgery and ignited the patient's oxygen supply burning the patient.

A hospital spokesperson commented on the emergency nature of the procedure, which was ultimately successful, and said that the patient is expected to fully heal.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, surgical fires are not that uncommon and an estimated 550 to 650 surgical fires occur each year. These fires often lead to serious injury and disfigurement from burns and can even be fatal. The operating room often is an oxygen-enriched environment and this exacerbates the risk of fire.

An investigation will conclude whether the doctor or hospital was negligent and liable for the injuries. The State Health Department is currently investigating the situation and it will look into whether proper safety procedures were followed.

Following safety procedures and adhering to the accepted standards of care reduces the risk for surgical error.

Medical mistakes in surgery are a growing concern and thousands of people are injured or killed every year by hospital and doctor negligence and surgical errors. Most of these injuries are preventable and the patients who suffer as a result of these errors may be able to recover compensation for losses including pain and suffering, medical bills, lost wages or more.

Source: CBS News, "Report: NYC man set on fire during tracheotomy surgery," Ryan Jaslow, May 7, 2012

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