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Unfathomable surgical accident leaves woman unable to speak

When New Mexico residents enter a hospital for surgery, they face a certain amount of risk. Regardless of the relative simplicity of a procedure, there is always the possibility for something to go wrong. Ideally, physicians will have explained the risks of the surgery to the patient before the patient consents to it -- regardless of how remote those risks might be.

A medical malpractice case that was recently decided is a reminder to us all that even the most remote possibilities can actually manifest themselves when it comes to surgical errors. A woman in Washington was robbed of her ability to speak after a mishap during an operation on her vocal chords. A surgeon was using a laser to remove polyps on the woman's vocal chords when, almost unbelievably, a fire occurred in her throat.

Since the accident, the 55-year-old woman has undergone several other surgeries to address the problem, and doctors say she will require long-term care as a result of her injuries.

Officials at the hospital expressed their regret at the situation and said it took a confluence of unlikely factors to create the fire -- but that they were sorry it had happened.

In total, damages have reached $30 million in the case: the hospital settled earlier for $18 million, and two other groups recently had judgments against them for $7.65 million and $4.35 million, respectively.

While no amount of money can restore the woman's ability to speak, the damages that were awarded might at least make a positive impact on her medical bills.

Source: The Wenatchee World, "Botched surgery will cost hospital," K.C. Mehaffey, Dec. 6, 2013

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