People in need of surgical procedures generally do not anticipate being injured by health care professionals. Surgical mistakes do occur, however, and they can cause serious harm to patients.
Research indicates that many incidents of surgical mistakes, such as leaving a sponge in a patient’s body, tend to occur towards the middle of the medical professional’s career. Findings also indicate that about 66 percent of surgeons who committed a medical mistake have been previously cited in other malpractice incidents. Such incidents of surgical mistakes, including wrong-site surgery or anesthesia errors, can result in temporary or permanent injuries, a worsened condition or even death.
It is suggested that inattentiveness may play a role in surgical errors. Precautionary measures exist to reduce the number of mistakes, such as staff communication, checklists, counting equipment before and after surgery and purposefully confirming the identity of the patient and the surgical needs of that person prior to performing the procedure. An adequate reporting system could play a critical role in obtaining accurate statistics regarding incidents of medical malpractice and addressing the issue to improve patient safety. In addition to medical professionals taking steps to minimize the risks of surgical errors, patients can be proactive in their own health care and inquire about potential problems that could arise during a procedure. Discussions with the surgeon might influence the possibility of a mistake occurring.
A surgeon is expected to perform according to a medical standard of care in order to optimize the well-being of the patient. Failing to meet these standards could be deemed negligent. A lawyer may be able to determine if medical negligence played a part in a patient’s injury. Victims of malpractice could be entitled to compensation for their losses.
Source: WebMD, “Thousands of Mistakes Made in Surgery Every Year,” Jennifer Warner, Dec. 26, 2012