Performing surgery on the wrong patient may seem unthinkable, but wrong patient surgeries comprise a significant amount of surgical errors in the United States. In a six-month observation of orthopedic surgeons, for example, wrong patient surgeries comprised 5 percent of all types of surgical errors, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Wrong patient surgeries can cause adverse effects for both the patient who undergoes the surgery, as well as the patient who does not receive a time-sensitive and necessary surgery. When a surgical error of such magnitude occurs, the surgeon, operating staff and hospital all may be held liable for a medical malpractice claim.
Are wrong patient surgeries preventable?
Patient mix-ups are entirely preventable surgical errors. Most commonly, wrong patient surgeries occur because of human errors made in patient charts or communication failures. Both of these types of errors – as well as errors regarding the availability of information, verbal and written communication errors, lost information, poor documentation, and more – can be remedied with changes to institutional policies and procedures, more education, and perhaps more care on the part of the surgeon and other hospital staff.
The Dangers of Wrong Patient Surgeries
While some wrong patient surgeries may be relatively harmless in the long run, others can cause serious, sometimes fatal injuries. MedpageToday.com tells the stories of five cases of patient mix-ups that resulted in serious patient harm, including three prostatectomies performed on the wrong patients; a vitrectomy performed on the wrong patient; and a myringotomy (eardrum surgery) performed in a child who actually required an adenoidectomy. According to the article, communication errors were the cause of wrong patient surgery errors 100 percent of the time.
The examples above of patients who were the victims of wrong patient surgeries experienced serious adverse effects, some of which may affect them for life. In addition to the loss of certain physical abilities, the patients may suffer lost wages, medical expenses and emotional trauma as a result of the surgical errors.
Can I file a lawsuit for a wrong patient surgery?
Those who are victims of wrong patient surgery and have suffered damages as a result have the right to pursue compensation for those damages in civil court. By filing a medical malpractice lawsuit for damages, a patient can recover damages for any lost income or future lost income, medical expenses and future medical expenses, permanent disability or disfigurement, loss of physical abilities/loss of enjoyment of life, and pain and suffering.
Filing a lawsuit alone, though, is not enough to recover damages; instead, a plaintiff must prove that a medical professional or entity acted negligently, that the negligent action was the cause of the wrong patient surgery and that the wrong patient surgery was the definite cause of the plaintiff’s harm. In Pennsylvania, state code section 5524 requires that a medical malpractice claim for damages be filed within two years’ time. In the event that a wrong patient surgery leads to death, the personal representative of the deceased can file a wrongful death claim for damages.
How to File Your Claim for Damages Now
The first step in filing your claim for damages is to contact a surgical mistake attorney in Pennsylvania who will provide you with fair and committed representation. Then you and your attorney will need to gather evidence, build a case and file a claim in the time frame stipulated above. To help you do all this and more, contact the attorneys at Cordisco & Saile LLC today by calling 215-642-2335 now. To begin, we’ll meet with you for an initial free case consultation.