This past week in Massachusetts (at St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester), a surgeon removed a kidney from the wrong patient. State health authorities are now conducting an investigation in line with the federal health department. The hospital is denying responsibility. According to a statement from Tenet Health (the owners of St. Vincent), the patient misidentification took place outside of their hospital and did not involve their employees. Tenet Health claims that the staff followed proper protocols in preparing for and performing the surgery, which was scheduled by the patient's physician at the hospital.
Representatives from the Agency of Healthcare Research and Quality stated that situations like this are relatively rare. Surgery performed on the wrong patient is described as a "never event" by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality: an error that should never occur and indicates serious underlying safety problems. One study found that such errors occur in approximately one in 112,000 surgical procedures, which means an individual hospital would have such an error every five to 10 years.
Looking at a broader range of surgical problems, an estimated 200,000 people died from complications or other postoperative issues involving the 65 million surgical operations performed last year in the United States, according to a report this week in the Harvard Business Review, which looked at innovations in surgical quality and safety. The Joint Commission (PDF), which accredits hospitals, have strongly encouraged them to mark the surgical site beforehand and to have a "timeout" and review everything once more just before starting the surgery to confirm that the correct procedure is being done on the correct patient. While timeouts have been helpful, they haven't solved the problem. The timeout might not work if the patient were given the wrong ID bracelet or if another patient's X-rays were sent to the operating room.
In a situation like this, the patient has the right to file a medical malpractice claim. Unfortunately, sometimes healthcare professionals make mistakes, but sometimes these mistakes are a result of negligence. This means that the medical professional has treated patient with care that does not reach the standard of care, which is determined by the medical field and requires expert evidence to establish. Investigations are conducted to help reach such conclusions.
If you believe that you or a loved one have been injured by the negligence of a medical provider, you should speak to a medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. Call Brogdon Champion, LLC today to get started.