This headline about a Florida hospital leaving a 12 x 12 sponge in a patient is not really news to me. After all, a few years ago I was involved with a lawsuit where an even larger foreign object was left in a patient. But I digress. This story is newsworthy for a few reasons.
First, it is not an isolated event. According to the article and other studies, this happens almost 2,000 times a year. Leaving objects in patients during surgery simply should not happen.
Second, the patient was a local judge. Whoops. I'm thinking that judges are probably one of the worst patient profiles for a colossal, preventable medical error like this. Although the judge settled with the hospital, he declined to be bottled up with a restrictive confidentiality agreement, which is standard in settlements like these. The reason hospitals usually demand confidentiality is clear: PR damage control. If the patient in this case was not a saavy judge who refused to be gagged with a confidentiality clause, nobody would have heard about this medical mistake.
Third, Florida, like Ohio, has passed limits or "caps" on what malpractice victims can recover, even when the negligence is clear and indefensible. So, no matter how much misery and life altering changes victims like this judge endure, the hospital's liability for its mistake is capped. The message? Give corporate America and hospitals a break even when they are caught dead to rights.
Finally, groups like The Chamber Of Commerce love to trot out and display occasional goofball lawsuits (like the nitwit who sued a dry cleaners for a bazillion dollars for ruining his pants) as the poster child for what is wrong with our legal system, and why we need lawsuit "limits" on recovery in all personal injury cases, including malpractice cases. But "sponge" cases like this one, not to mention "wrong site" surgeries, medication errors, the BP oil spill, The Upper Big Branch Mine explosion, and the 228 million egg recall, are continuing reminders that institutions are error prone, fallable, and often greedy at the expense of safety.
I'm pretty sure The Chamber will not be highlighting any of these notorious cases of inexcuseable negligence in its future press releases. They'd rather talk about the "pants" lawsuit and whatever other goofball lawsuits they can scrounge up.