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Medical Malpractice And Wrong Site Surgery:causes And Solutions

By Expert Author: R. Klettke

The occurrence of wrong site surgery in the United States has been recently estimated to be higher than two thousand cases each year. Unfortunately, the definite number is unknown due to a lack of laws mandating submission of wrong site surgery data to any authority or central body. Statistics come mostly from the filing of medical malpractice lawsuits by personal injury lawyers who specialize in medical malpractice cases. Included in the general category of “Wrong Site Surgery” are incidents of wrong side, wrong procedure, and wrong patient surgeries.



Why do wrong site surgery medical malpractice lawsuits continue to be filed, despite continued media attention and medical profession scrutiny? Are there any practical solutions that can be implemented to significantly decrease the number of patients whose lives are devastated by what are largely, preventable events? Is there any way to decrease the numbers of lawsuits filed against medical professionals by medical malpractice lawyers?



Such questions were addressed by a The Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare and the Lifespan system in a two-year study of hospitals and surgical centers in the United States. The project investigated the specific causes that might increase the risk of wrong site surgery and identified any contributing causes. They then worked to develop specific solutions that could be tested and applied in real life. In 2011, The Center for Transforming Healthcare released its list of causes and solutions on their website. A summary of the causes is as follows:



The causes of wrong site surgeries could be divided into the three main events of Scheduling, Pre-op events, and Operating room events, with the fourth cause arising from the culture and attitudes of the organization.



Examples of scheduling errors:



• Verbal requests for procedures were accepted instead of written documents


• Unapproved abbreviations, cross-outs, and illegible handwriting used on forms Crucial paperwork, such as patient consent, or history and physical were missing



Examples of pre-op errors:



• Staff rushed during patient verification


• A non-approved surgical site marker was used to mark the site on the body


• Someone other than surgeon marked the site



Examples of operating room errors:



• Documentation was not used to verify the patient, procedure, site or side


• A “time out” process occurred before all the staff was ready


• General distractions and rushing


• Site verification was not done when multiple procedures were performed



Examples of organization culture problems:



• Senior staff was not actively engaged


• Staff was passive or not empowered to speak up


• Competition and pressure to increase volume led to shortcuts or lack of consistency



A summary of the center’s solutions may be found at the center’s web site.



In general, there is usually not one event that causes a wrong site event to happen. These events are typically due to a series of minor mistakes that add up to cause a tragic outcome. Each event should be individually scrutinized to reduce the future risk of medical malpractice cases resulting from wrong site surgery. If you or someone you know has been a victim of a wrong site surgery or incident of medical malpractice, contact a personal injury attorney who accepts medical malpractice cases. You may also find these lawyers under the term “medical malpractice attorney”.


R. Klettke is a freelance writer. He writes about personal injury and medical malpractice law and other matters of jurisprudence.



Important Advisory: This article is not intended to provide legal advice upon which you or anyone else should rely in making any decisions regarding the instituting or prosecuting of a legal claim. Laws and rules relating to the bringing of a claim vary widely from state to state. You should always contact a personal injury attorney to obtain information as to the rules and the laws pertaining to any claim you might have.

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