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Better checklists and communication could prevent surgical errors

We frequently hear stories about patients who have the wrong leg amputated or a surgical instrument left inside their bodies. It may seem like these things happen more often than they actually do because the media tends to sensationalize them. Nonetheless, surgical errors still happen in Philadelphia and can negatively impact a patient’s quality of life. Instead of feeling better after a surgical procedure, the patient suffers from more pain, a worsened condition or organ damage.

Two recent examples of astonishing wrong-site surgeries underscore the importance of surgeons and all of the other medical professionals in the operating room following proper protocol. It was determined that the policies in place at the California hospital where a surgeon removed the right kidney of a cancer patient instead of the left were satisfactory, but the staff's compliance with the policies was not. The error wasn’t even discovered until after the surgery when the pathology report was examined. The other incident occurred in a Florida hospital where the surgeon operated on the wrong leg. Despite the fact that one of the nurses realized the error and told the surgeon, he still completed the vascular procedure on the wrong leg and then operated on the correct leg. After surgery, the surgeon claimed that the patient needed surgery on both legs anyway.

Both of these surgical errors could have been prevented by following operating room checklists exactly and better communication. Civil lawsuits serve as a powerful message to medical professionals that there is no room for error. Those who have been victims of a surgeon mistake may want to pursue legal action. You could be entitled to compensation for your pain and suffering. A medical malpractice attorney can guide you through the legal process with ease and understanding.

Source: General Surgery News, “Wrong-site surgery and checklist (non)compliance,” Skeptical Scalpel, August 19, 2013.

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