Patients can take precautions to avoid surgical errors, part two

Earlier this week on our Chicago medical malpractice law blog, we began discussing some precautions surgery patients can take in order to make sure that their doctors and other hospital staff are fully aware of the types of surgeries they are performing and that the surgeries will be performed on the correct body parts and on the correct patients for that matter.

Although Illinois patients may think that a surgeon could never be responsible for removing the wrong kidney or operating on the wrong patient, the truth is these types of surgical errors do happen and can cause patients to suffer long-term complications, or even death.

Some might question how these obvious mistakes can even be made in the first place in hospitals and outpatient surgery centers. But, a surgeon can have many patients and oftentimes relies on a patient’s chart and other medical records in order to be reminded of what problems the patient is experiencing and why the patient needs surgery. However, information in these records can sometimes be wrong or illegible. In extreme cases, the surgeon might not even have the right chart for the patient.

Fortunately, when patients and their families are persistent about communicating with the surgeon and hospital staff prior to surgery and after an operation, they can help doctors to avoid some surgical errors by confirming with their surgeon which procedure will be performed and which side of the body the surgeon will operate on. Hospital staff and surgeons should also initial the surgery site as recommended with a permanent marker in order to avoid any confusion during the operation.

Prior to choosing a surgeon and operation center, patients and their families should not hesitate to examine the track record of a hospital or doctor in terms of how often they have performed an operation, and whether or not there is a history of complaints or malpractice lawsuits. Patients should also bring a family member or friend with them to their operation for support.

Source: cnn health, “Don’t become the victim of a surgical error,” Elizabeth Cohen, last assessed July 17, 2008


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