What You Should Know About Wrong-Patient Surgeries
Wrong-patient surgeries have horrific and permanent consequences for patients and their families. Doctors may sometimes remove limbs or other body parts from the wrong patients. A wrong-patient surgery that occurred in Massachusetts is gaining national media attention. According to St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester, a doctor removed a kidney from the wrong patient. St. Vincent Hospital claims the doctor who performed the surgery is not an employee.
Similar scenarios unfold thousands of times each year in American hospitals. A 2012 Johns Hopkins medical malpractice study discovered wrong-patient surgeries and similar errors occur at least 4,000 times per year!
Why do mistakes like this happen? Poor communication between staff or a failure to double check work are primary culprits. The Joint Commission, the agency responsible for accrediting hospitals, has identified other factors. Wrong-patient and site surgeries can happen when multiple surgeons are involved in a case or when multiple procedures take place during a surgical visit. These mistakes also happen when surgeons operate under unusual time constraints.
Health organizations have provided hospitals with recommendations for avoiding these types of errors.
How Doctors Can Prevent a Wrong-Patient Surgery
The Joint Commission encourages surgeons to take a ‘timeout’ before conducting surgeries. A timeout period before surgery would allow surgeons to confirm they are operating on the correct patients. Surgeons could use this time to double-check medical records. Surgical checklists could also prevent wrong-patient surgeries.
If hospitals do not work to prevent these errors and patients are harmed, it is possible they could be held liable. Patients or family members may have options for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit.