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Surgical instrument put five Massachusetts patients at risk

Five patients of a Hyannis hospital learned that they are at risk for having been exposed to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease as a result of a contaminated surgical instrument used during their procedures. CJD leads to dementia and can cause death within one year. The disease is most often inherited or occurs naturally, but a small number of people have gotten the disease as a result of contaminated surgical instruments. According to the Mayo Clinic, standard sterilization procedures don't always remove the proteins that lead to the disease.

The patients may have been exposed as a result of surgical procedures performed between the months of June and August. The doctors at the hospital used a surgical instrument that was used on a patient in New Hampshire who may have had the disease. The potentially contaminated equipment was then shipped to the Cape Cod hospital. However, the risk is low to the five patients because they didn't undergo brain surgeries.

In Massachusetts, patients have three years from the time that they learn about surgical errors to bring medical malpractice suits against physicians, surgeons, dentists, hospitals or other medical facilities. The statute of limitations for bringing a suit is seven years from the time that the procedure is performed. Medical malpractice can be the result of a surgical error, an improper organ transplant, surgical instruments left inside a patient or a negligent operating room staff.

In medical malpractice suits, patients or their families can seek damages for medical expenses, lost wages, or pain and suffering. In any malpractice case, an attorney with experience in personal injury cases needs to prove that surgeons, physicians or medical staff didn't follow the standard of care or practices and procedures expected of individuals working in a medical facility in certain areas. The lawyer also needs to show that the person has sustained illness or injury as a result of a procedure or treatment.

Source: Mayo Clinic, "Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease," Oct. 23, 2012

The 188th Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, "General Laws," 2013

Source: WCVB, "5 Mass. patients may have been exposed to deadly brain disease", September 05, 2013

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