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Rules Preventing Wrong-Site Surgeries Are Ineffective

The Chicago-based hospital accreditation group known the Joint Commission sets the mandatory rules that seek to prevent wrong-site surgeries. In general, the requirements insist on preoperative verification of surgical details, marking the site, and a timeout to confirm it all shortly before the operation.

The head of the Joint Commission admits that the rules are “very simple stuff,” because it takes quite an immense lapse in protocol for surgeons (and all staff members involved in operations) to operate on the wrong body part or the wrong patient. Yet, as shocking as these errors are, each year more and more wrong-site surgeries occur involving things like the amputation of the wrong leg, removing the kidney from the wrong patients, and similar faux pas. In our area they remain one of the most shocking types of Illinois medical malpractice.

The statistics are startling. According to a recent story on the issue in the Washington Post, nearly 40 wrong-site surgeries occur each week in national hospitals and clinics. Officials report that the problems may actually be worsening. A member of the Joint Commission explained how increased focus needed to be put on these errors. He thought the problem stemmed in part from hospital cultures that were difficult to change. Doctors prize their autonomy, often scoff at checklists, and fail to understand their risk of error.

Experts explain that many doctors continue to resent rules aimed at preventing these wrong site surgeries, even though some types of surgeons have as much as a 25% chance of being involved in a wrong-site surgery. One safety authority member exclaimed of the situation, “It’s very frustrating. If you can’t solve the wrong-site surgery problem, what can you solve?”

There is simply no excuse for the prevalence of these errors. Any Illinois medical malpractice lawyer knows that the only way that surgeons commit mistakes of this magnitude is when there is a complete collapse of basic safety protocols. Hospitals and clinics must be held accountable for this conduct and forced to enact plans for improvement.

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Wrong-Site Surgery Could Lead to Medical Malpractice