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VA hospital accused of leaving scalpel inside Army vet

An Army veteran went to a Veterans Affairs hospital complaining of dizziness. An MRI of the vet's head did not locate the source of the problem. When he was later being examined, he experienced severe abdominal pain. This time, doctors ordered an X-ray of his midsection. The problem was evident in the images: the 61-year-old had “an abandoned surgical instrument" in his gut.

The scalpel had apparently been left inside the vet during a surgical procedure performed on him four years earlier at the same VA hospital. His medical malpractice lawsuit alleges U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs negligence and asks for compensatory damages.

The story has not made headlines here in Texas, but it has drawn the attention of the veteran's Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who called it an “egregious medical malpractice case.”

Blumenthal said he's demanding “full accountability, so this kind of horrific negligence never happens again. America owes our veterans the world’s best medical care, nothing less.”

A VA spokesperson said the department does not comment on litigation.

This case adds fuel to the firestorm of criticism the VA has endured since 2014, when news media reports found that VA system employees were routinely hiding months-long waiting times for vets to get care. In recent months, there have been reports that VA hospitals had hired doctors with records that included medical malpractice settlements and discipline for professional misconduct.

The National Institutes of Health last year reported that when medical instruments are left behind in surgeries, it is typically "due to a lack of organization and communication between surgical staff during the process."

Those harmed by a VA physician's or hospital's negligence can hold responsible parties accountable with the help of an attorney experienced in medical malpractice litigation.

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