Medical errors often go unreported, but some statistics have revealed that wrong-site surgeries account for more than 10 percent of all medical mistakes—an ominous figure considering the high incidence of malpractice in this country.
Although the Joint Commission—the organization responsible for accrediting hospitals in the United States—imposed new and stricter regulations and oversight in 2003, surgical errors continue to plague patients and may have increased. The Commission estimated that approximately 40 wrong-site surgeries take place every week across the country, and “93 cases were reported to the accrediting organization [in 2010], compared with 49 in 2004,” Kaiser Health News reported.
If you’ve suffered an injury during surgery, contact The Mellino Law Firm today for a free consultation or request our free medical malpractice guide. Our Cleveland wrong-site surgery attorneys have the experience, resources, and in-depth legal knowledge to help you navigate the legal system and fight for the fair recovery you are owed.
WHAT ARE WRONG-SITE SURGERIES & HOW DO THEY OCCUR?
The National Institutes of Health defines wrong site surgery as simply, “the performance of an operation or surgical procedure on the wrong part of the body.”
This could include:
- The wrong side of the body (left opposed to right)
- The wrong location (the wrong finger on the correct hand)
- The wrong procedure
- The wrong patient, due to staff looking at another patient’s chart or entering incorrect data on a patient’s chart during the scheduling process
Why do wrong-site surgeries happen so often? In a July 9, 2008, blog post, Dr. Robert M. Wachter likened hospitals to IHOP.
“The point is that a business like IHOP—with its relatively low profit margin per customer—is all about production: everything is designed to get you in and out promptly. But production carries a cost: with haste sometimes come mistakes. I remember many times when our cute little syrup well was filled with four boysenberry syrups, rather than the appropriate assortment (maple, strawberry, blueberry, and boysenberry). But that seemed a small price to pay for speed,” said Wachter, who serves as professor and associate chairman of the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. He also edits patient safety journals and reports.
“I’ve used this IHOP/SFO metaphor many times in speeches to hospital staff and leaders over the past few years,” said Wachter, “and [I] usually end it by asking audiences: ‘In its approach to production and safety, does your hospital look more like the IHOP or SFO?’ Although things have gotten a bit better over the last couple of years, the answers still run about 10:1 in favor of the IHOP.”
INACCURACY IN THE OPERATING ROOM
Another problem pinpointed by a number of studies is the fact that hospital staff sometimes mark the wrong side of the patient’s body.
According to the state agency Patient Safety Authority, prior to surgery, healthcare providers should:
- Ask the patient for his or her name and birth date (or other information that the healthcare provider could check against the patient’s chart)
- Double check the patient’s ID bracelet
- Inquire what surgery the patient will be having and on which side of the body (if it’s an arm, leg, eye, kidney, etc.)
Unfortunately, doctors, nurses, and anesthesiologists don’t always ask these questions, and mistakes are made.
CONTACT THE MELLINO LAW FIRM FOR A FREE CONSULTATION
If you or someone you love has been injured by wrong site surgery, contact our surgical error attorneys in Cleveland. We will review the facts of your case in a no-cost, no-obligation consultation. During this meeting, you will have the opportunity to ask questions, and we will evaluate whether you are able to pursue compensation for corrective surgeries, lost wages, future medical and rehabilitation bills, as well as pain and suffering. These case evaluations require no commitment from you, and you are under no pressure to hire an attorney or file a claim.
Do you have questions about a surgical error? Before you hire an attorney, request our free Ohio medical malpractice guide to learn about your rights.