Medical Malpractice and Surgical Errors

Wrong-site surgeries have highlighted the news recently, and we’ve discussed them, especially the wrong-site surgeries at Rhode Island Hospital, in previous blog posts. However, there are many more instances in which surgeries may constitute harmful medical malpractice and negligence on behalf of doctors and healthcare workers. Surgical errors include operations performed on the wrong person, surgical instruments such as sponges, needles, and instruments left inside the patient, and patients catching fire during cauterization procedures. In other cases, there have been reports of patient deaths caused by the use of contaminated surgical instruments, contaminated drugs administered to the patient, and blood transfusions of the wrong blood type.

These are all serious, potentially fatal medical errors that constitute negligence and medical malpractice. As a patient or patient advocate, it’s important to take proper precautions prior to any surgery. Make sure to discuss the procedure and any concerns with the surgeon and theanesthesiologist.

The Joint Commission, the group that is responsible for accrediting hospitals, has established a “Universal Protocol” for surgeons and surgical procedures. The protocols include: the use of check lists and “time outs” to ensure the right patient and correct body part. These protocols were specifically developed to protect patients and reduce medical errors.