When a doctor makes mistakes, patients often pay for those errors with their health or with their lives. In many cases, when an error happens in an operating room, the only justice that victims and their families get is the opportunity to make a civil claim and recover compensation for damages. If patients can prove that a care provider was unreasonably negligent, this can give rise to a successful malpractice claim so the doctor can be required to compensate victims for the harm he caused them to endure.
For many patients, getting compensation for damages helps them to move on with their lives, but is only partial justice. If a patient believes a doctor's actions rose to the level of criminal negligence or wrongdoing, the victim of malpractice must hope that a prosecutor will press charges against the care provider.
This is rare, but it can happen. Just recently, USA Today reported on one case in which a doctor was charged with a crime. He became the first surgeon to be sentenced to prison as a result of botching surgical procedures.
According to USA Today, the man who was charged was a 44-year old neurosurgeon. He was accused of causing injury to an elderly person on the basis of a surgical procedure that he performed on her that had left her permanently paralyzed in a wheelchair.
This patient who he harmed was not the only one who had been victimized by the negligence and substandard care the neurosurgeon provided. The prosecutor presented many witnesses, all of whom had their lives ruined by the neurosurgeon. The surgeon had killed two of his patients, and left may others with permanent and severe injury- but he just kept on performing surgeries despite his terrible track record.
The prosecutor also presented testimony from witnesses in the healthcare field, including nurses, other doctors, and other medical professionals. They all testified they were unable to believe some of the things the surgeon had done both during and after the surgeries which left his patients with grave and sometimes fatal damage.
The prosecutor told the jury in closing arguments: "This defendant single-handedly ruined their lives, and he gave each of them a life of pain." She blamed greed for his decision to continue performing surgeries on patients, indicating that he was living the high life and owed a lot of people money and did not want to give up the big salary that goes along with being a neurosurgeon.
His defense attorney, on the other hand, pointed out the unfairness of the case against the neurosurgeon when it was the medical establishment that had enabled him and kept hiring him. They had "blood on their hands," she claimed. While this may be true and the patients who were harmed certainly should have a civil claim against the hospitals who allowed this negligent doctor to perform surgery- the jury was not convinced by this line of argument. They deliberated for an hour and found the surgeon guilty. He was sentenced to life in prison, which many of his victims indicate was finally a measure of justice for them.