Perhaps the single most egregious form of Illinois medical malpractice involves “wrong-site surgeries.” These occur when surgeons perform operations on the wrong part of the body-such as amputating a patient’s left leg instead of his right. To the average observer, it seems that this type of error should never happen. Even the most basic safety checks should catch this mistake.
Yet a new study from the Joint Commission reveals that each and every week about 40 patients fall victim to surgeries on the wrong part of their body. Medscape News recently covered the report. Wrong-site surgeries actually have three forms: operation on the wrong patient, the wrong body part, or performing the wrong type of operation. In total, about 40 of these mistakes are made each week.
How do they occur? One of the study’s authors explained, “The biggest [reason] was inadequate information about the patient. Often, the information is taken by a staffer in the surgeon’s office, who may have to deal with several hospitals and different protocols. Confusion can result. The solution is a carefully standardized way of collecting information.”
The “marking” of the location on the body where the operation will be performed is the key step in the process. Each hospital has different ways of performing the marking, with some styles more open to error. The best methods involve the mark being made in the holding area, with second checks being performed in the actual operating room.
It is imperative that each and every safety protocol be tested to help eliminate these errors completely. There is simply no excuse for the prevalence of wrong-site surgeries. Any Illinois medical malpractice attorney 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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