Medical malpractice lawsuits are often difficult to prove, but there are some cases where pointing out negligence is as easy as showing there was an object left inside a patient's body or a surgeon performed the wrong surgery.
In the medical profession, these forms of medical malpractice are called "never events" because they should never occur. Yet, they occur frequently.
In fact, a recent study by John Hopkins University School of Medicine found that never events happen more than 4,000 times each year. That deserves repeating: More than 4,000 times in every year, a surgery team does one of the following:
- Operates on the wrong patient
- Leaves a surgical object in a patient's body, such as a surgical sponge
- Performs the wrong procedure
- Performs a surgical procedure on the wrong site ("wrong-site surgery")
As with any medical malpractice study, the number of errors is probably much higher than 4,000, since researchers can only study reported events. Many patients will never file a claim or understand what caused their injury. This is especially true in cases involving surgical objects left inside a patient. According to one author of the study, Martin Makary, one in four sponges left inside a patient "may never be discovered."
Hospitals have procedures to count and re-count surgical objects, they have electronic charts and surgical "time-outs" to ensure that the patient is the right patient and the surgery is the right surgery. Yet, it is obvious this is not enough.
Whether a surgeon is simply too tired or a nurse fails to double-check the charts, they must be held accountable for their errors. Through a medical malpractice lawsuit, a victim can recover compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering, and other damages. Perhaps more importantly, a medical malpractice lawsuit makes a strong statement that we will not accept negligent medical care.
Source: Fox News, "Thousands of surgical errors happening with 'alarming frequency,'" The Wall Street Journal, Dec. 21, 2012