Statistics indicate that medical errors occur at an alarming rate in the United States. Various studies reveal that up to 187,000 deaths and more than 6 million injuries occur annually because of medical errors. Surgical errors are the second-leading cause of these problems. Wrong-site surgery falls into this category.
Wrong-site surgeries may occur because of incorrect information supplied to the surgeon regarding the operating room schedule. Someone may enter the wrong information in the patient’s history record, or there could be an error in the documentation concerning a physical examination. Physician fatigue is another cause of inappropriate care. In hospitals, resident surgeons may only get four or five hours of sleep per night.
These actions increase the likelihood that an error will take place. One doctor recommends that methods are put in place to ensure that documentation refers to the right patient and the right procedure. Members of the health care team should verify all patient information with the patient before the surgery. Additionally, potential surgical sites should be clearly marked and signed. Any health care member questioning care should have the freedom to voice a concern.
Although wrong-site surgeries occur, miscommunication or other events leading to the errors are not necessarily included in post-operative notes. Thus, evaluating medical records alone may not prove that a patient received a sub-standard level of care. A personal injury attorney could seek the opinions of medical professionals while representing a patient who experienced an injury due to alleged medical negligence. Any restitution resulting from a legal claim against the health care provider could be used for the patient’s additional medical care.
Source: aaos.org, “Patient safety means patients first”, James H. Herndon, September 10, 2014