Leaving behind instruments and gauze pieces after operation is certainly not a healthy practice. Besides being an extra burden for the patient; the doctrine of Res Ipsa loquitor applies with regard to negligence by the medical practitioner. Ordinarily acts of omission and comission need to be proved in court by expert evidence in court to determine negligence by a doctor but this need not be proved in case ” res ipsa loquitor” i.e “the thing or fact speaks for itself”. The reason for this post is this in todays news with regard to removal of ‘Sponge’ from a patient’s abdomen at a prominent institute.
A patient underwent open cholecystectomy (removal of gall bladder for stones) and complained of constant pain with purulent discharge. Investigations revealed a left over towel used for packing which was subsequently retrieved.
Now this is one of those cases when the surgeon will have to throw in his towel! The rule applies when (i). in the absence of negligence the injury would not have occured. (ii). the doctor had exclusive control over the injury producing agent. (iii). the patient was not guilty of contributory negligence.