In the days leading up to your surgery, your doctor probably discussed the risks of the procedure and the after-effects you could expect. It is not likely your doctor also warned you there was a chance he or she would make a mistake that would change your life or perhaps even place it at risk. When you awoke from the surgery, you likely experienced shock in addition to pain when you learned that your surgeon had made a terrible mistake by operating on the wrong part of your body.
If you are the victim of a surgical error, you probably thought it would never happen to you. In fact, even the medical community refers to such mistakes as “never events,” meaning they should never happen.
How can this happen?
Years ago, the Joint Commission, the agency that accredits surgery centers and hospitals, issued a universal protocol to prevent wrong-site surgeries after reports emerged that dozens of wrong-site errors occurred each week. The protocol includes a multi-step verification of the patient and procedure, directions to mark the site of operation, and a time-out in the operating room to confirm the doctor is not about to make a mistake. Shockingly, doctors still make this preventable mistake, often for one or more of the following reasons:
- Veteran doctors do not believe they are capable of making mistakes.
- Some doctors believe they are too smart to need a checklist.
- Doctors get confused between the right and left sides of your body, especially if your position changes or surgical draping covers your body.
- Site markings often become smeared or wiped clean during surgical preparation of your skin.
- Staff members might write the wrong information when scheduling you for surgery.
- Doctors do not always pay attention during the surgical time-out.
While hospitals and surgical clinics work to reduce the number of never events at their facilities, it may be too little too late for patients like you. In some cases, a doctor will not even admit he or she has made a mistake. It may seem ironic that the medical community calls wrong-site surgical mistakes “never events” when over 12% of surgeons making such errors have made similar mistakes in the past.
If your surgical procedure has left you with a life-altering injury because a doctor operated on the wrong site, you have every right to seek answers to your questions and to learn about your options for pursuing justice for your injuries.