New York City Wrong-Site Surgery Lawyer
The federal government’s Patient Safety Network uses the term WSPEs to refer to wrong-site, wrong-procedure, and wrong-patient errors in surgical settings. Medical safety groups include WSPEs in the class of “never events” – errors so serious they should never happen – along with horrific mistakes such as leaving a foreign object in the patient after surgery, using contaminated drugs or unsanitary surgical tools, or sending the wrong baby home with a new parent. Although WSPEs are never events, they happen enough to occur at least once in every hospital in the country every five to ten years. And that’s just considering operating room errors only and not counting ambulatory or outpatient surgery, radiological procedures and the countless other surgeries and procedures that occur outside of the OR.
New York City medical malpractice attorney Michael Gunzburg holds doctors and hospitals accountable for all kinds of surgical mistakes, including negligence or incompetence that severs a nerve or damages an organ or leaves surgical tools inside the patient after the surgical site is closed. Wrong-site surgery is one of the most severe, damaging, and easily preventable surgical mistakes. If you or a loved one has been harmed by this serious medical error in Manhattan, The Bronx, Brooklyn or Queens, call Michael Gunzburg, P.C., for immediate assistance.
Wrong-Site Surgeries Can Have Devastating Effects
Every surgery is risky, and the outcome is never certain. Plus, complications could arise, or the patient could suffer a heart attack due to the stress of the procedure, even if the operation is performed carefully and competently. On top of these potential complications lies the possibility of medical negligence, from surgical mistakes and anesthesia errors to post-operative infections.
The damage done in a wrong-site surgery might be irreversible, such as if the wrong organ is removed. Even if the wrong surgery does not cause permanent harm in and of itself, the patient likely still needs to have the surgery performed that was originally intended. The patient will in all probability be too weak to undergo another operation right away and will have to wait some time before scheduling the surgery. A delay in the surgery could cause further harm, such as allowing cancer or another disease to spread, while operating right away could increase the likelihood of death on the operating table or while in intensive care. No good comes from a wrong-site surgery, and the potential for harm is great.
Wrong side of the body. The majority of wrong-site surgeries are surgeries conducted on the wrong side of the patient’s body. Human beings are bilaterally (left-right) symmetrical, and many organs and body parts (lungs, kidneys, breasts, limbs) come in pairs with one on each half of the body. Even single organs, such as the genitals, can have left-right symmetry, leading to wrong-side surgical errors. For instance, a patient may go into surgery with a cancerous lesion on the left side of the vulva, and doctors erroneously remove the right side.
A similar error occurs when surgeons perform spinal surgery at the wrong level of the spine. One published report surveyed 400 neurosurgeons, and half of them admitted to performing a wrong-level surgery at least once in their careers.
Wrong organ, wrong procedure, wrong patient. Patients can move rooms before surgery or switch beds in a room, and sometimes their charts don’t move along with them. Other times, patients with the same or similar last name might get confused by hospital staff responsible for prepping patients for surgery and transferring them to the OR. These mistakes can lead to operations on the wrong patient or performing the wrong operation. About five percent of wrong-site surgeries are wrong-patient operations.
How Can Hospitals Prevent Wrong-Site Surgeries?
The easiest way hospitals can avoid wrong-site surgeries is with policies and protocols that implement a number of redundancy checks before the operation begins. These include clearly marking the surgical site, asking the patients to state their name and procedure, double-checking the patient’s wrist band and chart, and documenting that these checks were performed. The surgical team should also implement a “surgical timeout” before starting, where they go over the procedure and make sure everything is in order before proceeding.
Any one of these checks can be subject to failure. For instance, if a site on the patient’s body is marked with an X, does this mark indicate the surgical site or the side NOT to cut open? Different teams in different departments might have different methods of marking the patient if a hospital-wide procedure is not developed and implemented with training. Scanning a bar code on a patient’s chart or wristband is only effective if the information was entered correctly in the first place. This is why it is important to implement many safety checks before starting an operation and not just one or none.
Doctors, nurses and orderlies can prevent wrong-site surgeries by performing these checks diligently and not just going through the motions or doing them as a routine matter. For this to happen, the hospital needs to foster a strong safety culture that encourages staff to speak up and speak out if they see something occurring that doesn’t seem right. Hospitals can be liable for wrong-site surgeries that happen because of their lack of appropriate practices.
Get Justice and Compensation After a Wrong-Site Surgery in a New York City Hospital or Surgery Center
If you or a loved one were subjected to a wrong-site surgery at a New York City hospital in Manhattan, The Bronx, Brooklyn or Queens, call Michael Gunzburg, P.C., for a no-cost, confidential consultation with a compassionate and dedicated New York medical malpractice lawyer.