According to a medical analysis published by John’s Hopkins Medicine, more than 4,000 surgical errors occur every year in the United States. These events, described as “totally preventable,” are referred to by the federal government as “never events,” meaning that they should never happen.
However, it has been estimated that surgeons in the U.S. perform the wrong surgery on the wrong patient and leave a retained object in the patient over 20 times a week. These mistakes during many routine operations are often very serious, causing permanent injury in almost a third of cases, and death in almost 7 percent of cases.
Surgical mistakes contribute to other medical errors, which account for more than 251,000 deaths in America each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), that would make medical errors the third leading cause of death in the United States, underscoring the need for hospitals to make patient safety a priority.
Joe Lyon is a highly rated Ohio medical malpractice attorney with experience in injuries due to surgical errors. Mr. Lyon has represented plaintiffs nationwide in a wide variety of medical negligence, wrongful death and injury claims.
After an analysis of national malpractice claims, Johns Hopkins researchers identified several types of surgical errors, many of them causing permanent disability or death. According to statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 60 percent of surgical errors are due to operating on the wrong side of the patient. In extreme cases, the wrong limb has been amputated. Other common errors include:
• Anesthesia error
• Foreign object left inside the patient
• Wrong patient surgery
• Wrong side surgery
• Performing an unnecessary surgery
• Failure to communicate test results with the patient
• Failure to provide informed consent
• Failure to recognize a complication during surgery
• Performing a surgery in a careless or unsanitary manner
In many instances, an error in judgment by an operating medical staff can cause permanent issues. There are a number of unfortunate cases in which patients have had perfectly functioning organs removed or damaged.
Wrong patient surgery, while not as common as wrong site surgery, has also been known to occur. A patient is subjected to an unneeded surgery, along with all the complications that accompany surgery, and may have lasting negative consequences.
Severe complications can include the following:
• Nerve damage
• Emotional trauma
• Infection—often due to unsanitary surgical instruments
• Long-term tissue and organ damage
A study published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons concludes: “Serious communication breakdowns occur across the continuum of care, typically result from a failure in verbal communication between a surgical attending and another caregiver, and often involve ambiguity about responsibilities.”
At most medical centers, patient safety procedures like surgical checklists have long been in place to prevent never events, but these efforts are still vulnerable to human error. The mistakes continue to mount, putting more pressure on medical facilities to improve systems and serve the public responsibly.
With medical care costs increasing, it is imperative for negligent parties causing serious surgical injuries to take responsibility for the damage inflicted. When taking into account medical expenses, lost wages, and future medical care, injuries caused by surgical errors often require significant compensation. Fortunately, courts have been sympathetic to the victims. Malpractice judgments and claims over the last 20 years due to surgical errors total over $1.3 billion.
In addition to providing compensation to the patients, holding medical professionals legally responsible will force hospitals to improve patient safety. Medical facilities must recognize the gaps in their system and make changes to prevent others from suffering the same surgical errors.
It takes courage to challenge a health care provider. The Lyon Firm can help you find the answers to the many questions that have gone unanswered. If you or a loved one suffered an injury involving a surgical error, and have questions about the legal remedies available to improve quality of life and medical care, contact The Lyon Firm (800) 513-2403. You will speak directly with Mr. Lyon, and he will help you answer these critical questions.