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Taking another look at surgical errors

In a recent article, we discussed some of the causes for the alarmingly high rate at which surgical tools have been left in patients since 2005. The risk seems to be elevated in emergency situations and/or when hospital staff deviated from established surgical protocols and procedures.

As an attorney that focuses on medical malpractice is well aware, accountability in the medical profession is not always easily achieved. A lawsuit is one way to hold professionals liable for any medical mistakes or injuries they caused to patients. However, most surgical patients would have greater ease of mind knowing that hospitals have taken a more proactive approach to their safety.

One of the proposed solutions is a standardized inventory system for surgical tools, involving a three-stage process and verification by at least two different staff members. At least one children’s hospital reported a significant drop in errors after trying this approach.

Another proposal for reducing surgical risks calls for a specialized approach according to particular patient demographics. For example, studies confirm that pediatric surgery patients experienced fewer complications when they received care in pediatric hospitals, as opposed to adult-focused facilities. 

The proposal has been well received, as around 200 hospitals around the country have signed up to be classified according to the type of pediatric services they provide. Hospitals will be designated between three levels, with a level one classification reserved for those facilities that are continuously staffed by a certain range of pediatric specialists and have a neonatal intensive care unit that meets certain specifications, as well as a transport system.

There may be inherent risks associated with many types of surgical procedures, but there is similarly no excuse for negligence or preventable error that resulted in a surgical injury. If you were injured in this way, a medical malpractice lawyer will help you review your options.

Related Article: “Report: Doctors have left surgical tools in nearly 800 patients since 2005

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Programs Aim to Standardize Surgical Care for Children," Laura Landro, Sept. 1, 2014

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