Medical Malpractice, Surgical Error on "Seinfeld" - The Junior Mint Episode

Let’s take a look at what our Raleigh personal injury lawyers think about medical malpractice in the plot of a “Seinfeld” TV episode “The Junior Mint” (Season 4, Episode 20).

What negligence caused injury to an innocent person?
In the show, Jerry and Kramer observe a surgery in a hospital from balcony seats alongside studying physicians. Kramer persistently offers Jerry Junior Mint candies and Jerry refuses, knocking a candy in the air, and it lands inside the patient. No one else notices and the patient is stitched up with the Junior Mint inside of him. The patient develops an infection and Jerry and Kramer are conflicted with whether or not to confess their actions.

What medical malpractice and negligence occurred?
A handful of operating physicians and assistants were oblivious to the candy falling and completed the surgery with the foreign object inside the patient. Foreign objects left inside patients after surgeries can cause serious injuries, illnesses, and may result in death. In some North Carolina medical malpractice cases where a doctor’s instruments were accidentally left inside a patient, negligence also falls on the staff who are responsible for completing rigorous checklists of supplies before and after surgeries to account for all materials. The staff in the television episode did not fail to perform an adequate tool count, but more than three people on the medical staff, plus a handful of observers alongside Jerry and Kramer, failed to observe the candy falling into the patient.

Jerry and Kramer acted carelessly as well. Their behavior, although accidental, caused the Junior Mint to fall into the surgical area. Although they were fully aware of their potentially harmful actions, they did not confess to the medical staff and allowed a foreign object to be left inside an innocent patient.

The hospital is also operating carelessly by not having or enforcing safety procedures for observers. If there was an enforced hospital policy against having food in an operating room, Kramer would not have brought the Junior Mints into the room. If the observing guests were confined to a separate room with a window to view the surgery, their actions wouldn’t critically affect an innocent patient during surgery. There was also a moment in this part of the episode before Jerry knocked Kramer’s candy in the air where the surgical staff and physician heard Jerry and Kramer and looked up, clearly distracting them from focusing on the surgery.

What would happen in a real-life personal injury case?
The patient experienced complications after the surgery, which resulted in additional medical treatment, additional time in the hospital, and expenses for prescriptions. If this was not a fictional scenario, the patient could pursue a claim for the extended hospital stay, pain and suffering, and any long-term damages caused by the Junior Mint, and compensation for any additional surgeries that may have been necessary to correct the damages. The claim could be filed against Jerry and Kramer, the physician and attending medical staff, or the hospital, as outlined above.

A real medical malpractice case on the east coast involved a woman who underwent a Cesarean section. Two months after her surgery she complained of severe pain and a CT scan revealed a surgical sponge had been left inside her, causing intestinal damage that required over a foot of her intestine to be removed. Years after the surgery, she still experiences pain and digestive issues. The victim was awarded over a half million dollars in the medical malpractice case.

Read more about surgical errors and medical malpractice from our Raleigh personal injury lawyers.

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