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Preventable Mistakes Still Happen in Surgery

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By Deanne Katz, Esq. on February 11, 2013 9:22 AM

Horror stories about scalpels and sponges sewed up inside patients after surgery aren't just myths. It turns out preventable mistakes like that do happen, more often than you may realize.

Surgeons are human after all, and things can go wrong during surgical procedures. But some mistakes are so big that they're known as "never events" in the medical community. Those are things that never happen for a legitimate reason.

Perhaps "never events" is a misnomer. A study by Johns Hopkins University indicates that many types of surgical mistakes happen, at a rate of about 10 per week.

The study used data from the National Practitioner Data Bank and found that close to 10,000 of these instances were reported over the last 20 years, reports ABC News. That's an average of about 500 per year.

The incidents don't just include leaving foreign objects inside patients. Common mistakes also include:

  • Surgery on the wrong patient,
  • Performing the wrong surgery, and
  • Performing surgery on the wrong part of the body.

Those kinds of incidents often lead to malpractice claims. Because of the inconvenience and potential harm they cause patients, there are laws designed to discourage these types of surgical mistakes from happening.

In general, a legal claim for medical malpractice will succeed if a victim can prove that the treating medical professional fell below the accepted standard of care, and that subpar care caused the patient's injury. That's generally pretty clear in the case of surgical "never events."

If you or someone you know has been the victim of a preventable surgical mistake, getting the mistake rectified isn't the only remedy you're entitled to. Find a good medical malpractice lawyer who can help you understand your rights and advise you on the best way to proceed.

Happily these incidents may be getting less common as hospitals work on improving safety programs. New technology is making surgery safer for everyone.

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