Surgical Mistakes & Wrong-Site Surgery

December 7, 2015 |
Surgical Mistakes & Wrong-Site Surgery

No doctor can guarantee a perfect surgery. But when you agree to an operation, you should be able to trust that every member of your medical team will perform their jobs accurately and ethically. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. The American Medical Association estimates that 98,000 people lose their lives every year as a result of medical errors, including surgical mistakes like wrong-site surgeries.

Widespread accounts of doctors removing the wrong body part, performing the wrong procedure – and even operating on the wrong patient – are frequently signs of medical malpractice. If you believe you or a loved one was harmed due to a preventable surgical error, you deserve to find out what happened and hold the responsible party accountable for their recklessness.

Wrong-Site Surgery: A “Never Event”

The medical community refers to errors like wrong-site surgery as “never events,” meaning that they should never happen. But experts say wrong-site surgery is more common than one might think. In a 2010 CNN report, Dr. Martin Makary, a professor of surgery and public health at Johns Hopkins University, said that “each hospital, whether they publicly admit it or not, and whether or not it’s discoverable in a lawsuit, has an episode of wrong-site or wrong-patient surgery either every year or once every few years. Almost every surgeon has seen one.”

Consider these examples of recently reported surgical mistakes from across the country:

  • A 2011 report from the Joint Commission on Transforming Healthcare estimates that wrong-site surgeries happen 40 times per week nationwide.
  • Nearly half of neurosurgeons who specialize in spinal procedures acknowledged making at least one wrong-site surgery in their career, according to an October 2011 study in the Journal of Neurosurgery.
  • In October 2011, surgeons at a Nevada Air Force base were ordered to “stand down” for a day so doctors could discuss a string of preventable surgical errors that occurred over the past few months, including a botched gallbladder operation that caused a patient to bleed to death, according to the Air Force Times.
  • In 2010, researchers reported in the Archives of Surgery that over a six-year period, doctors in Colorado performed 25 operations on the wrong patient and 107 procedures on the wrong body part – including a mistake in which a chest tube was inserted into the wrong lung of a patient. The lung collapsed and the patient died.

Wrong-Site Surgery And The Universal Protocol

Wrong site surgeries are defined as procedures performed on the wrong side of the body, wrong body part or wrong patient. They can occur across all sorts of medical specialties, but are found particularly in fields such as internal medicine, general surgery, orthopedic surgery, anesthesiology, urology, OB/GYN, neurosurgery, podiatry and eye surgery.

In an effort to eliminate the rising number of incidents reported, the Joint Commission created guidelines called the Universal Protocol in 2004 that suggested new methods for patient verification and site marking. The protocol also calls for the surgical team to have a “time out” before beginning any operation to confirm that patient’s name, surgical procedure and surgical site. Unfortunately, the Universal Protocol is not always followed. The commission estimates that there are still over 1,800 wrong-site surgeries in the United States each year.

Some of the reported causes of wrong-site surgeries include:

  • Judgment errors;
  • Not performing the time-out;
  • Time pressures;
  • Failing to obtain adequate patient information pre-op;
  • Communication breakdowns;
  • Distractions in the OR.

Do I Have A Medical Malpractice Case?

There’s no doubt that a case of wrong-site surgery is a catastrophic “never event.” You should contact an experienced attorney who can investigate your claim thoroughly and determine whether you may have a medical malpractice case to pursue.

Keep in mind that medical malpractice cases are complex, time-consuming and expensive. Before you can even file a medical malpractice lawsuit in Michigan, you must serve and file an expert medical opinion in which a qualified expert certifies that malpractice led to your wrong-site surgery. While this can be a stressful process, it can also be worthwhile. A successful medical malpractice verdict or settlement could provide monetary compensation that takes into account what you’ve lost and the challenges that you will face moving forward.

Victim of a Wrong-Site Surgery? Contact Our Michigan Medical Malpractice Lawyers Now

The medical malpractice attorneys at Michigan Injury Lawyers understand that a wrong-site surgery can result in catastrophic harm to victims and their families. The costs of medical bills, particularly if another surgery is still required to fix the medical problem, can be sky high, and the loss of income can create significant financial burdens that you do not deserve.

The Michigan medical malpractice attorneys at Michigan Injury Lawyers can help you obtain compensation that will help as you begin to rebuild your life. Call our Michigan medical malpractice lawyers at (888) 454-0801 or contact us online for a free evaluation of your claim. If we don’t win, you won’t pay for our assistance.