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New study spotlights medication errors committed during surgery

We pose a simple question to our readers in Maricopa County and across Arizona today, namely this: How many times have you had surgery?

According to a recent study, you can essentially divide that number by two to come up with the number of drug-related mistakes you may have encountered during an operation.

Put another way: If you've had six surgeries in your life thus far, you have likely been victimized by medication errors of medical professionals about three times.

Is that a track record you're comfortable with?

We didn't think so.

Neither, apparently, do researchers who conducted the above study. That study is likely to be given considerable credence, given that it was carried out by a team of anesthesiologists at Massachusetts General Hospital. A recent Bloomberg article discussing the research notes that Massachusetts General is "one of America's most prestigious academic medical centers."

Study authors had carte blanche to scrutinize nearly 280 surgeries conducted at the hospital. They concluded, as noted recently in the medical journal Anesthesiology, that, "There is substantial potential for medication-related harm and a number of opportunities to improve safety."

Patients across the country might reasonably hope that those cited improvement opportunities are diligently pursued, given the stunning odds associated with surgical-related medication mistakes and unintended drug side effects. A 50/50 chance of drug harm is not something that any patient wants to contemplate as he or she is being rolled into surgery.

Bloomberg notes that the error rate observed by study researchers "is startlingly high compared with those in the few earlier studies" that have focused upon the matter.

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