Wrong site surgery is a medical error that should never happen, not a medical risk that the patient must accept. Wrong site surgery mistakes are preventable if the proper standards of medical care are followed, and most cases are directly tied to human error and a failure to adhere to nationally established procedures designed to avoid the form of medical malpractice. The Joint Commission, which is an independent organization that accredits most hospitals, receives about eight official reports each month of wrong site surgery being performed. However, the organization’s chief patient safety officer indicates that the true number is likely more than 10 times higher, since hospitals are not required to report such incidents and most do not.A three step process, known as the “Universal Protocol” was introduced in 2003 by the Joint Commission to ensure that doctors perform surgery on the right location. The process involves use of markers to designate where the surgeon should cut and a checklist. In addition, doctors and nurses are supposed to take a “time out” before cutting to double check that everything is right and that they agree on the procedure being performed.The wrong side surgery errors are a result of the doctors and nurses failing to follow these rules and the hospital having inadequate training for the safety procedures and failing to require that the steps be followed. Here are some of the negligent reasons that foreign objects are left inside surgical patients:
- Lack of intraoperative site verification when multiple procedures are performed by the same provider
- Ineffective handoff communication or briefing process
- Primary documentation not used to verify patient, procedure, site and side
- Site mark(s) removed during prep or covered by surgical draping
- Time-out process occurs before all staff are ready or before prep and drape occur
- Time-out performed without full participation
- Time-outs do not occur when there are multiple procedures performed by multiple providers in a single operative care
- Senior leadership is not actively engaged
- Inconsistent organizational focus on patient safety
- Staff are passive or not empowered to speak up
- Policy changes made with inadequate or inconsistent staff education
- Marketplace competition and pressure to increase surgical volume leads to shortcuts and variation in practice
Some surgeons resist the process due to egos and over confidence. In addition, many hospitals do not provide sufficient training on the process and do not empower the nursing staff to ensure the procedures are followed. Timid nurses are often reluctant to speak up and challenge the surgeon before or during the operation.
When surgery is performed on the wrong site due to a medical mistake, serious consequences could result. The wrong site surgery lawyers at The O’Keefe Firm investigate potential wrong site surgery lawsuits in Dayton and throughout Ohio. To review the circumstances surrounding a surgical injury and determine if financial compensation may be available, request a free consultation.