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Pitcher seeks relief after possible medical malpractice during spinal surgery

The night before back surgery, a million thoughts may race through a patients mind: Will it hurt? Will I recover quickly? Will my pain be treated? It is natural to approach any surgical procedure with some trepidation.

But there is one question patients should never have to worry about: Does my doctor know what he or she is doing?

Every patient should feel confident that while under anesthesia, he or she is being taken care of properly. When doctors in Louisiana or anywhere in the United States break this trust, a medical malpractice suit could be the only way for patients and their families to pursue justice and recovery after the serious injuries that may result.

One possible high-profile example involves Red Sox relief pitcher, Bobby Jenks, who may be considering a medical malpractice suit after his spinal surgery went awry. On Dec. 12, doctors performed a spinal decompression surgery. The plan during the surgery was apparently to remove two of four bone spurs on Jenks' spine. The pitcher told reporters that after removing two of the bone spurs, doctors began to remove a third, but then stopped. This left a serrated edge which resulted in multiple lacerations. Jenks also apparently suffered an injury that caused his cerebrospinal fluid -- which protects the spinal cord and brain -- to leak.

This leak led to horrific pain and a potentially life-threatening infection. Jenks was rushed into a second surgery on Dec. 30. The pitcher reports that if he hadn't been rushed into that second surgery for immediate treatment of his worsened medical condition, the infection could have spread to his brain, causing unimaginable consequences -- including death.

What is particularly disturbing about this case is that we can assume the pitcher had first-class insurance and is able to afford the best medical care money can buy. If a wealthy sports figure can suffer a serious and potentially life-threatening medical error, how much more at-risk is the average patient in Louisiana?

Source: Boston.com, "Jenks: Error was made in surgery," Peter Abraham, Feb. 24, 2012