A wrong site surgery is referred to as a “never event.” In other words, it’s such an egregious mistake that it should never have happened. Even so, it is estimated that about 50 wrong site surgeries happen every week in the US.
In our post today, we’ll discuss the kind of mistakes that lead up to a wrong site surgery and what steps a hospital could take to reduce their risk.
What is a Wrong Site Surgery?
As the name implies, a wrong site surgery is one that takes place on the wrong part of the body. This could be:
- Wrong side. For instance, a left leg is operated on instead of the right.
- Wrong location. This can happen in spinal surgeries, where the incorrect vertebrae is surgically treated.
How Does a Wrong Site Surgery Happen?
- Improper or rushed verification process
- Failure to mark surgical site
- Ambiguous/unclear surgical site markings
- Distracted or fatigued surgeon or medical staff
- Outdated or malfunctioning computer software or other technical equipment
- Poor handwriting in patient’s chart
- Lack of safety procedures
- Lack of communication between staff
What Can Hospitals Do to Prevent Wrong Site Surgeries?
The Joint Commission is an organization committed to patient health and safety. After analyzing wrong site surgical procedures, they came up with The Universal Protocol. When hospitals abide by this protocol, the chances of a wrong site surgery dramatically decrease.
- Pre-Procedure Verification. Staff need to carefully verify the patient, the procedure, and the site. It’s best if the patient can be involved as part of this process.
- Marking Procedure Site. Staff should carefully mark the site of the procedure. Organizations should adopt standard marks using materials that won’t wipe off during surgery prep. It’s highly encouraged that the person doing the markings will be present for the surgery.
- Time Out. Before the procedure starts, staff should take a time out and do a final verification process.
Is Wrong Site Surgery Malpractice?
In most cases, yes, a wrong site surgery is grounds to file a malpractice claim. To have a valid claim, you need to be able to prove that:
- There was a patient-doctor relationship.
- That the doctor acted outside of the norm of what’s accepted for his/her procedure.
- That you were injured as a direct result of the doctor’s errors.
- That your injuries incurred damages (such as emotional distress, medical bills, pain, loss of job, etc.).
As you can see from the list above, a wrong site surgery most likely would apply.
The best way to know for sure is to contact a medical malpractice lawyer. If you would like to speak with a Tacoma-based malpractice lawyer from our team at no cost or risk, please reach out.