Advancements in technology, new or improved surgical techniques, and increased health care access has resulted in more people than ever having some sort of surgical procedure during their lives. However, an increase in the number of surgeries comes with an increase in risk, as well—and preventable surgical errors, such as operating on the wrong part of a patient, performing the wrong surgery, or even operating on the wrong patient are more common than people think.
Here’s what you should be aware of regarding wrong-site surgery mistakes, including how wrong-site surgery happens, what can be done to prevent it, and what you should do if it happens to you.
How Wrong Site Surgery Happens
Preparing for and performing a surgery is a complex process. It requires careful planning and excellent communication between members of the health care team, including the nurses, technicians, anesthesiologists, physicians, and surgeons.
All hospitals should have well-examined and standardized policies and procedures for every step of the surgical process—a breakdown at any point could lead to disaster for the patient. Some of the biggest causes of wrong-site surgical errors include:
- Communications breakdowns. When members of the health care team aren’t sharing information effectively, such as during a shift change, even a small error can be amplified and cause a life-threatening surgical mistake.
- Checklist failures. Checklists have become a mainstay of accepted health care protocol. Failure to adopt a checklist system not only before but during and after surgery can result in otherwise preventable errors.
- Time pressure. A health care team that is moving too fast to follow protocol correctly can make dangerous mistakes.
- Improper site marking. Marking the correct part or side of the body for the procedure with a permanent marker is becoming a standard step for many surgical teams.
- Failure to verify patient identity. Doctors and staff interact with many patients throughout the day, and should always verify the identity of the patient, the procedure to be performed, and the surgical location before, during, and after the procedure.
There are clear steps that health care professionals can and are expected to take to prevent many of these errors, as they are considered “never events” that should simply never happen. Continued professional education is a must to avoid these mistakes, as is being familiar with the hospital’s policies and procedures. Familiarity with the latest recommended updates and guidelines for good practice from professional organizations, including the American Medical Association, is also good practice.
After a Surgical Mistake
A wrong-site surgical mistake can be devastating to the health of the patient. An operation or amputation on the wrong site or side of the body can mean an additional surgical wound or wounds, which not only delays healing time, but also doesn’t take care of the underlying condition that the surgery was intended to treat. The delay in treatment also often results in the worsening of the original condition. When the wrong-site surgery involves an amputation, a patient may lose an otherwise functional finger, toe, or even an entire limb, without treating the reason that the amputation was originally needed—which can result in the need for an even more extensive amputation later.
When wrong-site surgical mistakes like these happen, the patient has the right to seek financial compensation in a court of law to cover the expenses that the injury incurred. A medical malpractice lawsuit allows you to recover money for your:
- Hospital bills
- Repeat or revision surgeries
- Skilled nursing assistance
- Long-term care needs
- Prosthetics and other medical devices
You may also be able to receive damage awards for disfigurement, the loss of use or total loss of a limb or other part of your body, the pain and suffering that you endured from unnecessary procedures, and other costs.
Get Legal Help Today
A personal injury attorney with experience handling wrong-site surgery situations like yours can help you begin the legal process of making your medical malpractice claim. Your attorney will investigate your claim, enlisting the help of expert witnesses and other professionals to show the jury that your injury was the result of negligence or recklessness.
To get started with your claim, contact Wayne Wright LLP today. Our experienced legal professionals are here to stand up for the legal rights of those who have been hurt by medical malpractice, and we want to help you and your family get the recovery that you deserve in a court of law. For a free, no-obligation consultation, call us by phone today, use our online contact form to send an email, or click the live chat box on this page right now.