Surgical errors can garner a ton of media attention, especially when the surgeons really make glaring or sensational mistakes, such as removing the wrong limb or implanting an organ in the wrong patient.
But there are many mistakes that do not get a lot of attention that end up negatively affecting people for the rest of their lives. These errors range from injuring nerves during surgery to leaving instruments inside the patient.
Regardless of the mistake, the lasting consequences for patients can be both emotionally and financially costly. This is where a skilled medical malpractice attorney is needed to help patients find recourse for their injury.
A medical malpractice case can not heal an injured patient, but it can help with some of the financial burden that is inevitably incurred while a patient deals with the outcome of the injury, caused by physician negligence.
What are Surgical Errors?
A surgical error is a preventable mistake that occurs during surgery. All surgeries involve an element of risk, so it is standard for patients to sign a form before undergoing a procedure stating they understand surgery involves certain known risks. This is called informed consent.
Surgical errors go beyond the known risks of surgery and are both unexpected and almost always preventable.
What are Common Surgical Errors?
These mistakes are preventable, so preventable, in fact, that they are referred to as never events.
Whether a surgeon is negligent due to fatigue, incompetence, or lack of care, “never events” are mistakes that should never happen, but unfortunately do. For example, leaving a sponge in a patient’s body.
Out of an estimated 100 thousand total surgeries performed each week, surgeons:
- Leave a foreign object like a sponge or towel inside a patient’s body after an operation 39 times.
- Perform the wrong procedure on a patient 20 times.
- Operate on the wrong body site 20 times.
What are Common Reasons Surgical Errors Occur?
Though no two surgeries are identical, there are some common reasons for surgical errors:
Incompetence: The surgeon has simply not performed the procedure enough times to do it successfully on their own.
Insufficient Preoperative Planning: Preparation for surgery is critical. This can include reviewing, and preparing for, any complications that are likely to occur and using the Universal Protocol.
Improper Work Process: Surgeons may mistakenly determine that certain steps during a surgery are unnecessary; not completing each step properly can cause harm to the patient.
Poor Communication: Failure to communicate properly can result in a number of critical errors including marking the wrong part of the body for surgery or making medication errors.
Fatigue: One of the most common mistakes are made by physicians simply due to fatigue. Fatigue can cause lack of coordination and poor judgment, both of which are dangerous for the patient.
Drugs and Alcohol: Some surgeons turn to alcohol and/or drugs―prescription or otherwise―to cope with the stress they face in the workplace.
Neglect: Sometimes surgeons are simply not as careful as they should be. This could include failing to ensure their instruments are properly sterilized, resulting in infection for patients.
Common Surgical Errors are Avoidable
The most common errors are the ones that are most avoidable and often have nothing to do with the skill or training of the surgeon.
A good surgeon must not only be well trained in their field, they must have appropriate practice doing procedures, maintaining the standard of care, getting proper amounts of rest, and abstaining from drugs and alcohol during surgical procedures.
If you or a loved one was injured or died as a result of a never event, there is help through expert attorneys in the medical malpractice field.
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