Surgical Mistakes Occur Despite Continued Push To Improve Safety

The New York Times published a story yesterday that raises awareness to the fact that surgical mistakes continue to harm patients everyday at hospitals across the country. The errors strike even though many hospitals are working to implement protocols which are intended to ensure these preventable problems are eliminated.

Obvious mistakes like leaving equipment in a body or operating on the wrong part of the body are still accidents that occur much more frequently than they should. It takes no medical knowledge to understand the clear breach of basic care in many of these circumstances. For example, a newly released study on surgical errors reveals one case where a chest tube was inserted in the wrong lung, causing its collapse and the death of the patient. Other examples include brain surgeons working on the wrong side of a patient’s brain and back surgeons fusing the wrong vertebrae in the spine.

The new study which brought renewed awareness to the problem was drawn from insurance database and self-reported incidents of medical mistakes over a several year period from 2002 to 2008. In total, the study revealed 25 operations done on the wrong patient entirely and 107 on the wrong body part.

One director of orthopedics observed,” These are catastrophic events that are unacceptable. They have been termed a ‘never event’-because they should never happen again.”

As our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys at Levin & Perconti know, these self-reported numbers are almost guaranteed to drastically understate the true amount of surgical mistakes that strike on our nation’s operating tables each day. The accidents reporting in this study include many clear errors in which it was impossible to cover up. Smaller errors also occur which are frequently never brought to light. Both as a matter of personal health and accountability it is important for all potential victims to take steps to hold the violating surgeons to account.

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