Wrong-Site Surgery (And Other Surgical Mistakes)

Surgeons performing wrong site surgical errors on a patientSurgery is a fickle business, by nature, and can be affected by a slew of various factors, from unplanned allergic reactions to freak infections. However, one area where, as patients, we tend to assume problems will not be occurring is with our medical staff.  The very nature of surgery means that any patient should be able to trust that their surgeon and medical team will do their jobs competently and ethically. It’s the basis of the patient-doctor relationship, and therefore absolutely vital that we can entrust our lives in the hands of our doctors.  If you’ve been the victim of a wrong-site surgery or other surgery medical malpractice, you need to contact an attorney to hold the medical staff accountable and recover the compensation you need to correct the errors and attempt to move on with your life.

Nonetheless, just under a hundred thousand people lose their lives every year as a result of medical negligence (according to the American Medical Association), and this number includes surgical mistakes such as wrong-site surgeries.  From doctors performing the wrong procedure to opening up or removing the wrong body part, to even operating on a patient who does not need it, medical malpractice, especially in surgery, is much more widespread than we would like to think.

If you or a loved one has been harmed due to a surgical mistake, it is imperative you reach out to legal professionals to see if you have any options for holding the surgeon or medical personnel responsible.

No Surgeon Can Guarantee Perfection Every Time

Due to the absurdity and recklessness needed in order for something like a wrong-site surgery to occur, frequently you’ll find an error like wrong-site surgery to be referred to as a “never event,” in that it should never occur. However, just because it should never occur does not mean it doesn’t; in fact, it is a bigger problem than most may suspect.

Dr. Martin Makary, a surgery and public health professor at Johns Hopkins, famously noted in a 2010 report by CNN that “each hospital, whether they publicly admit it or not, and whether or not it’s discoverable in a lawsuit, has an episode of wrong-site or wrong-patient surgery either every year or once every few years. Almost every surgeon has seen one.”  This seems surprising, until one considers this evidence of surgical errors, spanning the entire nation and being pulled from instances out of the statute of limitations:

  • The Archives of Surgery reported that Colorado doctors performed twenty-five operations on a wrong patient, as well as 107 procedures on the wrong body part. This occurred over the span of six years, and included an instance where a chest tube, inserted into the wrong lung of a patient, caused a fatal lung collapse (2010).
  • The Joint Commission on Transforming Healthcare has estimated an average of forty wrong-site surgeries occur across the country each week (2011).
  • A study in the Journal of Neurosurgery found that nearly half of neurosurgeons specializing in spinal procedures have acknowledged a wrong-site surgery at some point in their career (October 2011).
  • A Nevada Air Force base saw its surgeons relieved of duty for a day in order for their superiors to discuss a slew of preventable errors in surgery spanning the previous few months. According to The Air Force Times, one such surgical mistake was a gallbladder operation that, when botched, causing fatal bleeding.

The Universal Protocol: Solution?

Defined as procedures performed on the wrong body part, side of the body, or patient, wrong-site surgeries are not limited to one particular field of medicine. They do tend to be particularly pronounced in general or orthopedic surgery, internal medicine, neurosurgery, eye surgery, podiatry, urology, and OB/GYN.  The prevalence of this “never mistake” led to the creation of the Universal Protocol in 2004 by the Joint Commission.

The protocol created modernized methods of verifying the patient and marking surgical sites, while also mandating a time out before any major operation. This time out would provide the necessary moment to re-verify the patient’s name and the necessary surgical procedure/site.  Unfortunately, the Protocol’s very existence does not necessarily mean it is always followed, as evident by the nearly two thousand wrong-site surgeries performed each year in the United States to this very day.  Wrong-site surgeries can often be attributed to various factors, including:

  • Operating room distractions
  • Lack of patient information before the operation
  • Time pressures (often involves skipping the time out)
  • Judgement errors
  • Failures in communication

Contact a Surgical Malpractice Lawyer in Michigan Today

Regardless of the cause or reason, a wrong-site surgery is a devastating “never event” with grueling, often fatal consequences. If you believe you or a loved one has suffered a wrong-site surgery, it is essential you contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney, who can investigate your case.  The first step any lawyer will take is by consulting an expert medical opinion, which essentially demonstrates the error the surgeon made is one that caused preventable injury and that another competent doctor would not have made.  This can be a time-consuming and complex process, so it is in your best interest to contact lawyers experienced in your state’s laws.  Call The Clark Law Office at +1 (517) 347-6900 today to get started.