In this series we show you the importance of being your own advocate when it comes to your health and the many ways you can prevent common medical errors.
Medical errors are considered the third leading cause of death in the United States. The American Association for Justice estimates that 440,000 errors resulting in death occur each year. We’ve learned a thing or two after handling medical malpractice cases for more than 30 years. We’ve learned that while medicine is complex, errors often can be prevented in simple, common sense ways. When you take charge of your own medical information you can actually decrease the odds it will happen to you.
Surgical errors are the most notorious type of medical error because they often have devastating consequences. Prior to surgery the surgeon is required by law to personally explain the risks, benefits and viable alternatives to surgery. This is your opportunity to ask how often surgical complications occur generally and with your particular surgeon. It is also important to ask how your surgeon will deal with each complication if one does occur. It may surprise you to know that your surgeon may permit a resident surgeon to take over your surgery or finish your surgery. You are entitled to ask and should ask your surgeon if he or she will be performing the entire procedure. Here are some good questions to ask your surgeon:
Asking the above questions is an important part of the surgeon patient relationship. Making sure some additional “basics” are covered such as confirming the type of surgery you agreed to and confirming the correct site of the surgery are also very important. This is because wrong site, wrong procedure and wrong patient surgical errors are known to occur. They are called WSPEs ( wrong-site, wrong-procedure, wrong-patient errors). Here are some examples:
Communicate! These errors occur because of communication failures among hospital staff during the pre-op process. If you are about to undergo surgery, ask questions and make sure your surgical team knows what specific procedure you’re having done. Read the consent forms and other paperwork describing your procedure. If you see any confusing or seemingly-incorrect language, alert your health care providers.
The above preventable surgical errors should never happen, plain and simple. Healthcare professionals have worked extensively to create protocols to eliminate these instances. If you have suffered from a surgical error, call us today to discuss your injuries and how we can help.
Wrong-Site, Wrong-Procedure, and Wrong-Patient Surgery
Current issues in patient safety in surgery: a review