Some, maybe many, medical errors are preventable. There is no good excuse for performing the wrong surgical procedure, operating on the wrong surgical site, or on the wrong patient.
These types of errors are referred to as WSPEs (Wrong-site, wrong-procedure, wrong-patient).
Preventable Medical Errors
Examples of WSPEs include:
- Performing a mastectomy on someone without breast cancer
- Performing hip replacement surgery on a patient that should have had knee replacement surgery
- Operating on the left shoulder when it should have been the right shoulder
- Operating on the wrong person. This happened just last week when a TN newborn erroneously had his tongue clipped because he was mixed up with another baby who was scheduled to have the surgery.
Medical Errors that Should Never Happen
These types of situations don't happen often, but they shouldn't happen at all. A 2013 study estimated that more than 4000 surgical “never events” occur yearly in the U.S.
A “never event” is a list of adverse events that should never happen and that put patients at serious risk. They include such things as giving the wrong medication, leaving surgical devices in patients, letting patients develop bed sores, falls and trauma, and performing surgery on the wrong body part or patient.
These are events that don't happen when a patient is being cared-for properly. The National Quality Forum lists 29 events as “Never Events” here.
How to Prevent Surgical Errors
If you or a loved one is scheduled for surgery, whether in a hospital or an off-site surgical center, there are certain things you can do to help reduce the likelihood of a mistake:
- Make sure all medical personnel (doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists, etc.) double-check your name, birth date and the surgery you are about to have;
- Make sure the surgeon properly marks the site where the surgery is to occur and that it is marked on the correct side of the body and in the correct place;
- Carefully read any forms that you must sign before the surgery. These forms list the specific procedure being performed and the risks associated with it. Ask questions if something doesn't look right on the form; and
- If any of the medical personnel say anything that seems different from what you expected then be sure to ask questions. Double-check with them the exact procedure being performed so that there is no ambiguity about what surgery is being performed, on what body part and to what patient. It's always better to be overly cautious.
If you have been the victim of a surgical error you likely will be scared and confused and not know what to do. The key is to focus on getting better and let someone else take care of holding the medical personnel or facility responsible for the mistake. Our firm has years of experience handling cases of medical and surgical negligence. If you think you've been injured by medical negligence, contact our office for a free consultation so that we can help get you on the road to recovery.