A Connecticut Army veteran has filed a lawsuit against the VA after a scalpel was discovered inside of his body from a surgery in 2013, ABC News reports.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court.
Glenford Turner went to a hospital in West Haven last March complaining of dizziness and abdominal pain, his lawyers said in a press release.
Turner’s physicians attempted to perform an MRI, but the procedure was stopped after he complained of severe abdominal pain. X-rays revealed that Turner had a scalpel inside of his body.
“Mr. Turner served our country proudly for decades,” said Turner’s attorney, Joel Faxon, in a statement. “It is shocking that in return for that service the VA thanked him by deploying a rookie surgical trainee to perform the surgery who showed an incomprehensible level of incompetence by losing the scalpel in Mr. Turner’s abdomen and not bothering to find it.”
Faxon called the incident “an incomprehensible level of incompetence.”
Doctors have confirmed that the scalpel was left inside of his body during a radical prostatectomy performed in 2013 at the VA hospital in West Haven.
In April 2017, Turner had the scalpel removed from his body, which was lodged near his intestines and stomach.
“When seeking medical treatment or care for yourself or family, you trust the doctor and hospital to provide you with the right care needed,” says injury attorney Denise Bradshaw, who is not associated with the case. “Unfortunately, some doctors, hospitals, and care facilities fail in their responsibility through negligence or mistakes.”
Connecticut Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal said he was “stunned and appalled” by the medical malpractice case. Blumenthal says that while the court will determine liability, he has asked for a detailed explanation from the VA, and is demanding full accountability to prevent this from happening again.
The Department of Veterans Affairs does not comment on pending litigation.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reports that from 2003-2013, there were 1,225-1,670 medical malpractice claims filed each year. About 291 of those claims were paid each year. Over the ten-year period, the VA paid $76 million in medical malpractice payments. Paid medical malpractice claims account for about 0.0004% of total patient visits.
The New York Daily News reports that the number of legal settlements made by the Department Veterans Affairs has more than tripled over the last five years due partly to a rise in medical malpractice claims. In 2015, total yearly legal settlement payments (which also includes other types of claims) shot up to $338 million, up from $98 million in 2011.
According to the NY Daily News’ report, the VA doled out $848 million in payouts over the last five years.
The VA cared for 6.6 million veterans in 2014, a 56% increase from 2001. Many of those cases were complex and required extensive treatment.
The U.S. Department of Justice represents the government in Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) cases, which is what veterans are required to file medical malpractice claims under if their initial claim is denied.