What are the complications in cataract surgery and how an ophthalmologist expert witness help?

The eye is a delicate part of our body and any kind of injury to it can cause devastating effects. Problems in glaucoma, retina, or cataract can cause severe impacts if left untreated. Therefore, you need to immediately seek medical attention. Have you heard about eye surgery malpractices? These malpractices take place when the doctor deviates from the established standard of care while treating the patient. It mostly happens due to surgical errors or other technical faults. Before understanding how an expert ophthalmology witness works, it is important to understand what cataract problems are and what malpractices can take place before, during, and after surgery.

What are cataracts? What risks can you face?

When the lens of the eye gets cloudy, it severely affects the vision of the person and this problem is more common among older people. The majority of people in the USA either have an uncorrected cataract or they had surgery to correct a cataract. In order to get better vision, it’s important for the natural eye lens to be clean. Cataracts take place due to the accumulation of proteins in the eyes making the lens cloudy. The eye lens is made up of water and protein.

How will you understand that you are suffering from cataract problems? Well! The first symptom is poor or blurred vision. Though the researchers have found no definite cause of cataracts, it has been found that some people might get cataracts due to diabetes or excessive smoking. On top of that, it has also been found that people who are exposed to UV rays for a prolonged time develop the risk of cataracts. Most people don’t realize the signs of cataracts in the early stage but as the cataract grows; the vision gets more blurred. Another important sign to look out for is the color of your lens. The color may become yellowish-brown and anyone who is facing this issue will also find it difficult to identify purples and blues. If you think that you are experiencing double visions or poor eyesight, then you might be in the early stages of cataract formation.

Cataract problems don’t go away with non-surgical procedures and therefore, the best solution is cataract surgery. Though the procedure is safe, there are risks associated with the surgery.

  • Infection
  • Dislocation of the newly planted artificial lens
  • Excess bleeding
  • Glaucoma
  • Retinal detachment
  • Inflammation
  • Redness
  • Vision loss
  • High or low eye pressure
  • Drooping of the eyelid
  • Posterior Vitreous Detachment
  • Posterior Capsular Opacification
  • Edema
  • Macular edema
  • Cyanopsia
  • Myopia or Hyperopia
  • Floaters
  • Toxic Anterior Segment Syndrome

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Medical malpractice cases in cataract surgery:

Medical malpractices take place when you get an unexpected outcome after surgery. It happens when an ophthalmologist fails to provide a treatment that is in accordance with the established standard of care for such a surgical procedure. In this regard, we’ll discuss some of the medical malpractice actions before, during, and after surgery.

A doctor is responsible for all the procedures involved in the surgery. Every step in a surgical procedure involves the consent of the patient and also requires the doctor to provide care as per the established standards. Therefore, the doctor needs to exercise utmost caution while acting before, during, and after the surgery. The patient can file legal action against the doctor for sustaining injuries. An ophthalmology expert witness is highly crucial in malpractice cases. They prepare medico-legal reports that stand as crucial evidence in malpractice cases. In this case, you need to understand how malpractice cases take place at every stage of the surgery.

Malpractices before surgery:

Most of the surgical malpractices take place because of the doctor failing to give a proper consultation to the patient. It’s the duty of the surgeon to analyze the previous medical history of the patient and medical tests should be done to find out any other underlying medical conditions. The course of action should be decided in accordance with the present medical condition. The surgeon should also discuss the procedure as well as the other alternatives or remedies available for the patient.  All the risks and benefits should be discussed prior to surgery. There needs to be informed consent from the patient both in verbal and written forms. This is done to ensure that the patient is ready for the surgery despite knowing the risks and benefits.

Malpractices during surgery:

Malpractices should also happen during surgery. Therefore the doctors have to be very careful while performing the surgery to reduce the risks of errors. Instances of malpractice during surgery include-

  • Cutting the wrong body part
  • Failure to establish clear communication between the doctor and the other medical staff.
  • The inexperienced surgeon not having sufficient knowledge to complete a procedure.
  • Not using sterilized equipment for surgery
  • Perforation of a body part causing injury to the patient.

Post-surgical malpractices

As soon as the cataract is operated on, the eye should be bandaged properly with a clean gauge. This should be followed by a meet-up with the patient to discuss the things that need to be done. The surgeon also needs to discuss the medications that they need to take. This stage is known as the post-operative stage in which the doctor needs to keep the patient under observation for a few hours. Post-operative care is extremely important because it helps the surgeon to understand the condition of the patient and it also helps in determining if the patient should be kept back for a few more hours. This is the observation phase. There can be malpractice if the patient is released before examining the patient’s condition after surgery.

These are the circumstances where malpractices can take place and the patient can seek compensation for the damages caused to them. Both economic and non-economic damages can be claimed for injuries caused. You can get compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering, loss of income, loss of enjoyment of life, emotional distress, and others. Usually, an eye expert witness is called upon to determine how the surgeon was responsible for malpractice. Based on this, they’ll prepare a report that serves as an important document in the case.

Steps to take after cataract surgery:

If you have sustained serious complications like poor vision or temporary/permanent vision loss, then your first step should be to seek a medical opinion. This will give an idea of how the surgeon performed the wrong surgery. You have to pay for medical bills in order to correct the eye problem. The prescriptions provided by your second opinion should be preserved with care because it is an important piece of document. You should not stop visiting your doctor or taking medications because that’ll be used as a ground by the defense to reject your claims.

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You are entitled to compensation for sustaining injuries and losses. This includes both economic and non-economic damages. To get your compensation, you have to get in touch with an eye malpractice attorney. These legal representatives will fight on your behalf and they have good connections with expert witnesses. The role of an ophthalmologist expert witness in a cataract surgery malpractice is highly significant. These expert witnesses are called upon to understand if there has been malpractice by the surgeons. This is an important finding because it’s important to rule out contributory negligence. Not all negligence cases can be termed as malpractice. At times, the patients might be negligent in taking care of their own health causing injuries. The plaintiff can be punished or penalized if it is proved that the plaintiff was responsible for the damages. Therefore, an expert witness is consulted to determine the fault of the surgeon. Once it is found that there are sufficient proofs against the surgeon; the attorney will file a lawsuit.

Roles of expert witnesses at depositions and trials:

Ophthalmologists’ expert witnesses have two major roles to play-

  • Testifying the standard of care
  • To testify if the procedure was the cause of the claimed injury

The ophthalmologists playing the role of an expert witness needs to understand the difference between law and medicine. In law, the goal is to determine the responsibility, put out the correct facts, negate the arguments put forward by the defense attorney, and to allow the jurors to decide which side is correct.

Experts at the deposition:

A deposition is an integral part of the discovery process in which the defense attorney tries to determine the impression that the expert witness is trying to put forward in front of the jury. The lawyer will use this opportunity to frame out the basis to counter-question the expert witness when similar questions will be asked in different ways. At the later stage, the answers will be used by the lawyer to prove that the expert witness is contradicting himself or herself. Experts are supposed to bring copies of their reviews which might help in recalling details in certain areas. On top of that, the expert should also have complete knowledge of the contents of their reports.  At times when the information is collected from a textbook, the lawyers may ask the expert to bring it. Any annotation that may prove to be damaging to the case must be discussed with the expert and should be eliminated if needed.

This is one of the reasons why it is important to choose the best expert witness in these cases. The experts should have the capability to put out strong facts during counter-questioning sessions.

Experts at trials:

The first impression of the experts can be seen during the trials. While testifying, the expert witness should provide opinions that are scientifically correct and clinically true. During trials, the ophthalmologist expert witness needs to explain the entire matter to the jury in an easy and simplified manner. Remember that medical negligence cases are highly complicated and without an expert witness, it’s impossible to decide the outcome of the case. During counter-questioning, the opponents will try to confuse the witness with hypothetical questions. This is the reason why an attorney to look for an experienced witness having excellent persuasive skills. In this context, you need to know the factors that should be considered before choosing an eye expert witness.

Factors to consider before choosing an expert witness:

As it is quite evident from the above discussion that medical malpractices are complex and it’s not easy to win a case, the attorneys need to be very careful while summoning an expert witness. Though experience and qualifications are an important consideration, there are several other factors that need to be kept in mind.

  • Communication skills– One of the main things to look at is the communication skill. As malpractice claims have complex matters, it is important to look for an eye expert witness that can not only simplify the complex matters but also convey the same to the jurors. The explanation has to be easy and in simple language so that it can be easily digestible by the jury.
  • Check the capabilities of the expert– As already explained above, the defense attorney will try to ask the same questions in a different manner to confuse the expert. They’ll make every attempt to discredit the opinions put forward by the medical expert. Therefore, an expert witness should have the capability to give scientifically correct facts and findings during such sessions. Because this will leave the impression that the opinion put forward by the expert is a correct one. Check the success rates of the cases in which the expert has testified earlier.

These are some of the factors that you have to keep in mind before choosing an eye expert. Eyes are a delicate organ of the body and any injury to it can cause loss of enjoyment of life. If you or your loved ones have sustained any such complication, you should immediately get in touch with an attorney to get your deserving compensation.

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