The dangers of improperly sterilized medical equipment continue to make news. Our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers have discussed the surprising findings of several groups in recent weeks about the prevalence of improperly sterilized equipment being used in surgeries throughout the country. We shared the story of one man who lost the use of this shoulder (and consequently his arm) after getting an infection following what was supposed to be routine rotator cuff surgery. It was only later than the source of the problem was identified-dirty surgical equipment used during his procedure.
Last week, NBC Nightly News had a segment on a new investigation which raised even more concerns about the widespread problem of unsterile equipment and the way that it may be silently causing many surgical patients extreme hardship. In reporting on the story, NBC News partnered with the Center for Public Integrity to explore the problem of dirty surgical instruments being used by surgeons and causing contaminants to enter patient bodies. While it would seem like common sense for extreme cleanliness procedures to be followed at all times in hospitals (and particularly in surgical rooms), each medical malpractice attorney at our firm understands that cut-corners at some medical facilities in this regard continue to put patients at risk.
The NBC segment put shared the same story, interviewing the man’s whose life was turned upside down after his shoulder surgery went amiss. As reported in a new study from the Center for Public Integrity, the problems of dirty surgical tool being used is actually found with “alarming regularity.” Observers explain that the problem is rooted in lapses in care by those medical employees tasked with making sure these instruments are clean. As one hospital safety expert explained, “it is a job that cannot be given to robots because the robot doesn’t have the critical thinking to say that ‘this is still dirty.'”
However, even though the job of keeping these instruments clean is of the utmost importance, 49 out of 50 states-including Illinois-have zero training or certification requirements for those working in this area. Many are raising eyebrows at the lack of certification requirements. Considering that everyone from hair stylists to dog groomers requires licensing, it would seem that the same rules would apply to those dealing with tools that go into the bodies of vulnerable patients.
Of course, if an individual is hurt by the use of dirty surgical equipment, they are free to file a medical malpractice lawsuit and seek recovery for their injuries. But, obviously the far better option is to prevent these harms before they hurt unsuspecting patients. That is why it our Illinois medical malpractice lawyers are surprised that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not require hospitals to report instances of dirty surgical tools making their way into operating rooms. The fact that the errors do not need to be tracked is one reason why the problem has not received much attention. This is yet another indication of why private citizens who are victims of these sorts of mistakes must come forward and demand redress and accountable so that these institutions are forced to make chances that protect patients in the future.
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