The Investigator examines hospital horror stories

CLEVELAND - The Investigator, Tom Meyer, examined hospital horror stories at a time when Ohio lawmakers might limit compensation to victims, and some of the details were difficult to digest.

Medical professionals inserted a tube to clear gastric contents from a Jeanne Schneider's stomach. The procedure resulted in Schneider's death.

A local hospital was found negligent for failing to check her EKG during a heart attack. Schneider couldn't handle the stress caused by the tube.

"This basically caused her heart to rupture," attorney Chuck Kampinski said. "That type of device is difficult to leave in a patient."

How common is hospital error? Local court records that Action News searched were loaded with cases.

In another example, a local patient complained of severe pain in his stomach following abdominal surgery. The doctor dismissed it as normal at first, but when the pain became too much, he went to the hospital.

The patient's small intestine was torn. The medical team had sewn him up, leaving a 6-inch hemostat inside of his body.

Hemostats are like scissors used to clamp tubes and blood vessels, among other things.

Incredibly, the foreign object remained in his body 11 years before another doctor discovered it.

"Breakdowns occur when instrument counts are done improperly," attorney John Lancione said.

Local doctors left a 9-inch surgical sponge inside of a woman from Euclid. They were forced to operate again to remove it.

"I thought I was going to die," the woman said.

Another victim, named Laura, can no longer dream of having more children because of a procedure gone bad.

"I was mixed up with another patient and they tied my tubes," she said.

Laura was supposed to undergo a routine procedure for cramping, but they confused her with another patient 25 years older than her and sterilized her instead.

"I feel empty and lost because I lost things that are important to me," Laura said.

If you think that you can't become the next victim, consider a staggering figure. Studies show up to 98,000 people die every year from hospital negligence.

Often, the names of negligent doctors and hospitals are not made public.

In the case of Clevelander Birdie Watkins, a jury ordered the Cleveland Clinic to pay the brain-damaged woman $11 million after botching a simple nose surgery that left her in a vegetative state.

Birdie's case went to trial, but as often happens in negligence cases, the medical professionals settled the case on the condition that they remain confidential.

So what should you do if you're about to have surgery? Experts said that you should ask a lot of questions: Who's doing the surgery? How often has he or she performed that surgery? You should also make sure that you have someone in the hospital with you if possible.

Doctors are saying that jury awards to victims must be limited. They complain that rising malpractice insurance is forcing them out of business.

Lawmakers will decide soon on what to do.