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Even routine surgeries carry risk of serious injuries or death

What started out as a routine surgical procedure on a healthy 13-year-old girl has turned into a family tragedy. Two parents have now petitioned a court to stop a hospital from removing their daughter from life support.

According to the girl's mother, the California girl underwent successful tonsil surgery on December 9 at Children's Hospital & Research Center in Oakland. After her surgery, however, the teen began bleeding profusely from her nose and mouth. She later went into cardiac arrest. Doctors pronounced the teen brain dead shortly after that and decided to remove her from life support at the end of December.

The patient's mother said that her daughter had no health problems before the surgery and the tonsillectomy was done to cure the girl's sleep apnea.

Even though a judge declared the girl dead just before Christmas, a nursing care facility in Southern California has agreed to take the girl if the parents can find a way to get her there.

As the parents try to raise funds to move their daughter, many medical professionals are bewildered by the incident. Tonsillectomies are among the most common surgeries for children across the United States, including New York.

Even routine surgeries, however, carry certain risks and potential complications.

One expert at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health says a surgery patient can experience uncontrollable postoperative bleeding and other complications such as hospital-acquired infections.

Postsurgical complications can also follow from surgical errors. Such problems including anesthesia errors, surgery performed on the wrong site and other post-surgical errors cause thousands of deaths every year.

In New York, post-surgical errors can give rise to a medical malpractice lawsuit. This type of malpractice suit can hold negligent surgeons and hospitals legally responsible and financially liable for the outcomes of their mistakes.

Source: CNN, "When routine surgeries go wrong," Jacque Wilson, Dec. 19, 2013

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