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Often times errors can occur during surgery that are unintended or mistakes, but do not rise to the level that the law requires to prove medical malpractice. But there are some mistakes that should never happen.
Wrong-sided (also called “wrong-site”) surgery is one of those mistakes that should never happen and that is almost universally considered to be medical malpractice.
When a doctor amputates the wrong limb, removes the wrong breast, or operates on the wrong side of the brain, the effects can be devastating. Healthy kidneys have been removed, leaving the diseased kidney in place. Healthy eyes have been operated on, leaving the diseased eye untouched. Patients have been subjected to radiation of healthy tissue, leaving the tissue that had been invaded by cancer untreated. The list of these surgical mistakes goes on and on. Sometimes the correct surgery is done on the correct side of the body but on the wrong patient.
In 2003, The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, the primary private credentialing agency for hospitals, adopted the National Patient Safety Goals designed to address wrong-site surgery. Goal One involves using two-patient identifiers and a time-out procedure. Making sure that the correct procedure is being done on the correct patient is part of the two-patient identifier process. The time-out procedure is just that, a “time-out” where the surgical team stops and reaffirms that they have the correct patient, that the procedure to be performed is understood, and the location of the procedure has been clearly established and verified. Goal Two involves using a preoperative verification process to confirm documents and to implement a process to mark the surgical site and to involve the patient/family in insuring that the appropriate surgery is being performed.
Patients who have had surgery may have experienced someone actually marking on their body an indication of where the surgery is to be done. What is better than a map on the patient’s body to guide the surgical team!
Preoperatively, someone should verify with the patient or patient advocate what type of surgery is to be done and where. Written consent forms should clearly indicate the nature and location of the surgery.
All of this sounds so simple, yet mistakes continue to be made. The reason mistakes continue to be made can generally be traced to a failure to follow appropriate procedures and/or failures to properly communicate. Regardless of the cause, in virtually every instance of wrong-site surgery, the conduct is considered to be medical malpractice. The malpractice may involve doctors, nurses, and surgical assistants. If the hospital or surgical facility does not have appropriate policies and procedures, then it may be independently responsible for the occurrence.
Wrong-sided surgery cases have a very high success rate in terms of settling or resulting in favorable jury verdicts. The team of malpractice attorneys at The Brad Hendricks Law Firm has successfully litigated wrong-sided surgery cases and can provide experienced legal representation for victims of these preventable errors.
For more information about your rights after a wrong-site surgery, call The Brad Hendricks Law Firm at (501) 221-0444 or toll-free at (800) 603-5100, or contact our firm online to schedule your free initial consultation.