Medical malpractice is often a fairly scientifically complicated area of law. Determining whether a doctor has acted appropriately in a situation requires understanding not just the law but the medicine as well. However, there are some cases of malpractice, particularly some involving surgical error, that are so glaring and obvious that no specialized training or knowledge is required to understand something went horribly wrong that never should have happened. Unfortunately these cases are all too common, and they are often caused by human error.
Study Identifies Human Error as Cause of Surgical Errors
According to a report by Renal and Urology News, so called surgical “never events” can often be attributed to human error. Never events are exactly what they sound like–the sort of events that should never happen. A classic example of a never event is a surgeon operating on the wrong body part in a pre-planned non-emergency surgery. There is simply no reasonable excuse for these events. According to the report a study published online in Surgery details an analysis done at the Mayo Clinic. The study looked at surgical never events including retained foreign objects, wrong site and wrong side procedures, wrong implant procedures, and procedures where the surgeon actually performs entirely the wrong procedure. The researchers found that human error played a significant role in these cases.
These Errors are Not Common, but They Are More Common Than One Would Expect
Good Housekeeping recently reported on these never-events. According to the studies they reviewed a surgeon operates on the wrong part of a patient’s body or on the wrong person all together in about 1 out of every 100,000 surgeries. In somewhere between 1 out of every 10,000 surgeries and 1 out of every 5,500 surgeries a medical professional leaves an instrument or tool inside of a patient during surgery. Most of these errors are caused by breakdowns in communication.
These Cases Highlight the Importance of Medical Malpractice Law
Tort reformers often claim that their purported reforms are necessary to combat an alleged swell in “frivolous” lawsuits. This is nonsense. Sure, some lawsuits are less meritorious than others, and some injured parties are not hurt as severely as other injured parties. That is why we have a system that requires plaintiffs to prove their injuries and the fault of the defendant before the plaintiff can recover any damages. The people who are hurt by tort reform measures like damage caps and strict statutes of limitations are the people who are actually hurt in serious ways. And these situations show that the kinds of mistakes that should absolutely never happen still do. The victims of these medical errors deserve to be made whole. Limiting the rights of every injured patient to sue limits the rights of the most injured patients to sue. And it also eliminates the primary method of holding those responsible for patients’ injuries accountable for their actions.
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