When a surgical error occurs, it’s often the result of the surgeon, anesthesiologist, or a member of the surgical team failing to follow “Universal Protocols” established by the Joint Commission. Some of the protocols include the use and strict adherence to a previously developed checklist, and a “time out” to ensure that the right patient is about to undergo surgery and that the proper body part is designated for the operation. These are protocols designed to protect the patient as well as the surgical staff. The intent is the reduction of surgical errors. Yet, when news breaks that the wrong leg was amputated or a wrong site surgery was performed, the culprit is often the failure to follow the Universal Protocols. In these instances, medical negligence and malpractice is often not even a matter for dispute.
Surgical errors may include wrong-site surgery, wrong surgical procedure, surgical instrument left in the body, surgery not related to patient’s diagnosis, infections resulting from inadequate preparation techniques, and avoidable injury from a planned surgery.
If you’re due for a surgical procedure, there are steps you should take to protect yourself.
1) speak with the surgeon and anesthesiologist to review your medical condition, the surgical procedure, and what to expect post-operatively;
2) ensure the surgical staff has properly identified you prior to surgery as well as the type of operation to be performed;
3) discuss any prescription drugs as well as prior health history including previous surgeries with the medical staff;
4) if you remain uncomfortable about the procedure of your medical staff’s ability to properly perform the surgery, postpone it.
5) if you’ve experienced any complication or difficulty during surgery or in post-op, ask for your medical records and a meeting with your surgeon. If you are dissatisfied, get a second opinion. Your health and recovery should be your first priority.