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"Never event" surgical errors harm patients

A California patient who needs surgery has likely explored other medical avenues of recovery and decided on surgery as the best option. Unfortunately, though surgical procedures offer the chance for better patient health, they also present the very real possibility of surgical errors.

Surgical errors happen with alarming frequency. Approximately 46 to 65 percent of hospital adverse events are due to surgical procedures, such as wrong-site surgeries or surgical equipment left inside a patient, according to the Patient Safety in Surgery journal.

Many of the errors that occur are "never events," which, as the name suggests, are events that should simply never have occurred. A Johns Hopkins study revealed that over a 20 year period these "never events" led to more than 4,000 malpractice claims every year. "Never events" can cause significant patient harm, including over 30 percent of patients suffering from permanent injury and 6.6 percent of patients dying as a result. Consequently, these cases resulted in payment to injured patients of approximately $1.3 billion.

Much patient harm results from careless surgeons who make simple, and completely preventable, mistakes. For example, 39 times per week a surgeon leaves a foreign object inside a patient's body after surgery. This can lead to infection or other complications and simply should not occur. Approximately 20 times per week a surgeon performs the wrong procedure on a patient, and approximately 20 times per week a surgeon operates on the wrong body part.

These are frightening statistics for patients who put their trust, and their lives, in the hands of California surgeons. If you or a loved one has been harmed by a surgical error, you may wish to consult with an attorney regarding your options.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "How to Make Surgery Safer," Laura Landro, accessed Aug. 19, 2016

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