David S. Jasmer
Setting the Standard in Personal Injury
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Pinpointing surgical errors to prevent medical malpractice

In the medical community, as with other professions, problems must be acknowledged and identified before solutions can be effective. The risks of causing serious injuries or deaths are high when Chicago doctors and hospitals fail to change unsafe behavior patterns.

Wrong-site surgeries occur when the wrong operation is performed or when surgery occurs on the wrong patient or body part. The Joint Commission recorded 463 wrong-site surgeries between 2010 and 2013, but these incidents were reported – the true number, including unreported mistakes, may be as high as 50 wrong-site surgeries every week.

Health care providers know wrong-site surgeries are a preventable problem. A Joint Commission project, undertaken by eight hospitals nationwide and some ambulatory surgical centers showed medical professionals could pinpoint and correct 29 factors that contributed to patient harm during surgery.

Errors began during operation scheduling, where mix-ups were traced to miscommunication. Verbal assurances were not backed by documentation. Handwriting or abbreviation misinterpretations were evident.

Mistakes prior to surgery included incorrect or missing documents including vital consent forms and patient identification. Inconsistency and errors were found among surgeons and pre-op staff members in marking surgical sites properly. Inattentiveness was attributed to hurrying and distractions.

Earlier mistakes snowballed in hectic operating rooms, where miscommunication and rushed actions also were blamed for errors. Final verifications about the procedure during time outs prior to operations were conducted before all surgical team members were ready or present.

Work cultures within the participating health care facilities did not emphasize new policy or patient safety training. Staff members were not encouraged to make comments about surgical procedures.

The wrong-site surgery risks dropped up to 63 percent when participating hospitals addressed and corrected these problems. Illinois health care facilities that do not prioritize safe surgical procedures may be liable for mistakes staff members make. Medical malpractice lawsuits are based upon negligence – carelessness that could have been avoided.

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