Medical malpractice is a growing epidemic in the United States. In May 2016, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine published the results of an eight-year study on medical errors, finding that more than 250,000 patients die because of medical mistakes each year in the United States.
According to the recent Johns Hopkins study, medical malpractice is now the third leading cause of death in the united states, right behind heart disease and cancer.
Medical errors come in all shapes and sizes. This article addresses one of the most obvious, and often devastating, examples of negligence.
Wrong Site Surgery
Wrong site surgical errors, also called “wrong side” or “left/right” mistakes, suggest exactly what it sounds like: A patient requires surgery on one side of his or her body, such as a right knee, but the doctors, nurses, anesthesiologist or other health professionals mistakenly perform the operation on the left knee. This type of negligence occurs far too frequently and is easily preventable with simple safety precautions.
Common Sense Approaches to Preventing Wrong Site Surgery
In response to a growing number of wrong-site surgeries, the medical profession has adopted various safety standards and protocols to eliminate this risk, such as the following examples:
- Simply double-check with the patient what surgery he or she expects to be performed, and on what part of the body.
- Use a magic marker to mark the correct body part and site of the surgery and, if possible, confirm with the patient.
- The “Huddle.” In this technique, the doctor, anesthesiologist, nurses, and others involved in the operation huddle together just before the operation starts to discuss what type of operation the patient is having. As a safeguard, the operation does not start until all of these people agree on what the procedure is.
These are just a few of the few ways wrong sites surgical errors can be prevented. There are many others. The main point here is that hospitals and doctors must first have these safeguards in place, and then, of course, they must use them.
Consequences of Wrong Site Surgeries
If doctors and hospitals do not use proper safety procedures, consequences can be devastating. In April of 2013 a woman named Regina Turner, age 53, of St. Ann, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis, was experiencing mini-strokes, and her doctor recommended brain surgery called a left-sided brain craniotomy bypass. Instead, the neurosurgeon performed a right-sided craniotomy bypass. This mistake left Ms. Turner with a permanent disability, and she now needs care 24-hours a day and can’t speak clearly. Before the surgery, Ms. Turner was a fully functioning woman who, ironically, worked full-time as a skilled paralegal in a law firm. After her injury, she could barely function, let alone work or provide for her family.
For a free consultation with one of our skilled medical malpractice attorneys, call us at 312-527-4500.