Woman Sues Surgeon When Husband Dies After Surgery

A medical malpractice case that occurred outside of North Carolina shows an example of how state legislation can protect doctors and limit a malpractice victim's claims:


Two surgeons were sued for medical malpractice but may be immune from liability, since the medical procedure was performed through a university teaching curriculum. The university was named a defendant in the suit since the doctors were teaching medical residents from the university's College of Osteopathic Medicine. In addition, some local news reports indicate that the state could be liable too.

Two general surgeons operated on the patient during a hemicolectomy. The surgery was a laparoscopic-assisted hemicolectomy. Less than ten days following the surgery, the patient vomited, aspirated, and died. The lawsuit blames the doctors for carelessness and negligence.

The lawsuit also claims the doctors improperly delegated post-operative orders, failed to diagnose/respond to their patient’s digestive dysfunction and failed to insert a gastric tube to prevent the patient from vomiting and aspirating.

The state Court of Claims will decide whether the university is liable for the doctors' alleged actions.

Last year, the Supreme Court in the state where this case took place ruled that private doctors are recognized as state employees if they are employed as a teacher at a state university medical school. The court found that doctors who are teaching while simultaneously treating a private patience covered by private insurance are not subject to lawsuits made outside claims court.

As a result of this court decision, the alleged victims in this case might have their rights to sue for malpractice compromised.

Although the incident and case did not take place in North Carolina, understanding case law in other states can help individuals understand the complexities, restrictions, and administration challenges that might surface when moving forward with a medical malpractice claim. A few items to consider for individuals who lose their spouse due to the negligence of a doctor, nurse, or other medical provider:


  1. Deceased spouse's lost income. If the case is recognized as wrongful death, a surviving spouse could be entitled to lost income.
  2. Loss of consortium. A surviving spouse is not the only family member who can claim loss of consortium. Children or other dependents who relied on parental support may also have legitimate claims.
  3. Medical bill reimbursement. Most courts that rule in favor of the plaintiff in a medical malpractice case generally include compensation for medical treatment and healthcare that was directly associated with the decedent's condition.


Our attorneys explain details about other benefits for surviving spouses, such as Social Security Survivor's Benefits and the landmark court decision in early 2015 that provides all spouses--including married same-sex LGBT couples--with equal rights and entitlements.