Compensation for Victims of Surgical Injuries
A patient who needs surgery generally forms a bond with the surgeon because he or she is someone they trust. And the majority of times things go well.
But occasionally they go wrong, very wrong.
Take the case of Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), who died from complications following laparoscopic gallbladder surgery in February 2010. It’s believed that Murtha’s surgeon accidentally nicked his intestine during the surgery causing an infection that eventually killed him.
Surgical errors can lead to disability or death if they are not corrected immediately.
Estimates are as many as 98,000 Americans die each year as a result of medical errors, many of them surgical errors.
In 2003, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare (JCAHO) was receiving five to eight new reports of surgical errors every month from hospitals that perform surgery. And the incidents may be underreported since it is not mandatory to do so.
The lion’s share of injuries – 76 percent – came from wrong-site surgeries, operating on the wrong foot for example, according to JCAHO, 13 percent were wrong patient surgeries, and 11 percent of injuries came from the doctor doing the wrong surgical procedure on that patient.
The types of surgeries with the most error were gastric bypass, childbirth, cardiothoracic surgery, thoracic surgery, laparoscopic intestinal surgery, and plastic or cosmetic surgery.
The consumer group, Public Citizen reports that 5 percent of doctors perform 90 percent of medical errors.
What Can Go Wrong?
A host of things can go wrong:
- A doctor can cut a nearby artery or organ
- A surgeon can fail to close a surgical opening leading to infection.
- A medical device can be implanted incorrectly including stents or a lead from a defibrillator improperly placed, piercing the heart wall for example.
- A surgical device or sponge can be left inside a patient
- Medical record mix-ups can mean that the wrong person receives a surgical procedure they didn’t need and is not reversible, such as a radical mastectomy.
- Wrong-site surgeries have been reported where the surgeon amputates the wrong foot, breast, or operates on the wrong artery
- Surgical errors can include problems with anesthesia. Complications can include nerve damage due to the anesthesia or pain from anesthesia being injected too close to a nerve.
A Harris Poll of 2,847 adults from 2004 finds that more than half – 55 percent – are concerned about surgical errors and injury.
Knowledge is Power
After the 2003 Joint Commission report, national patient safety goals were incorporated into the protocols of accredited organizations. Accredited hospitals must comply with the “Universal Protocol for Preventing Wrong Site, Wrong Procedures, Wrong Person Surgery.” What that means is that everyone present in the operating room and preoperative room must undergo the verification process.
- Marks the operative site
- Take a “time out” before the procedure to double check
- Brings these requirements to the non-operating room including at the bedside
To better function as a team, physicians and staff are encouraged to work together and something as simple as learning the name of the nurse he or she is working with can save previous time if there is a surgical injury. “Hey you” can be replaced with “Nurse Jones” and a faster response.
Wrong-site surgery errors are also being addressed by numerous vendors who have invented the “smart” wristband embedded with a miniature electronic device. When the surgeon or staff marks the surgical site, in consultation with the patient or their family member, a sticker is removed from the wristband which deactivates the chip. The steps must be followed or the wristband sets off a signal that reminds surgeons to mark the site. Since that system has been used at one hospital in St. Louis, there have been no wrong site surgeries, according to reports. And the cost per patient is about $2.50.
Another device, the SurgiChip, marks the surgical site electronically along with information on the type of surgery, the name and date of the patient and procedure as well as the name of the surgeon. A handheld reader is used to confirm the information to make sure the patient’s chart matches the ID wristband.
A readable chip can also be implanted in a patient’s right arm, complete with medical history vital to avoiding surgical errors.
Let the Jacksonville Surgical Injury Attorneys at Farah and Farah Help You
If you or a loved one has been the victim of a surgical error, you will want to consult with a Jacksonville medical malpractice attorney and begin the process of educating yourself about your options. Remember the clock is running and there is a time limit within which to file a complaint.