Surgical errors, resulting in medical malpractice, are negligent medical mistakes that occur in the time period between when a patient is taken in for pre-operative care, undergoes surgery and receives care post-operatively.
Surgical mistakes can be attributed to many factors, including staff reductions.
Surgical malpractice does not just happen in complicated surgeries such as heart or brain operations, they may occur during what is considered routine surgery, for example, a tubal ligation.
A press release from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services dated May 19, 2006 gives insight to the prevalence of these medical errors. The press release’s definition of surgical errors is as follows:
“According to the National Quality Forum (NFQ), ‘never events’ are errors in medical care that are clearly identifiable, preventable and serious in their consequences for patients…”.
For an event to be included on the National Quality Forum’s “never event” list, the mishap had to have been unambiguous, usually preventable, serious (as in death or loss of body part) and an adverse indication of a problem within the heath care facility or important in relation to public credibility or accountability.
The National Quality Forum “Never Events” list includes the following:
• Surgery on the wrong body part
• Surgery on the wrong patient
• Wrong surgical procedure
• Death of an otherwise healthy patient during surgery or immediately post-operative
Product or Device Events
• Death or serious disability through contaminated drugs, devices or biologics
• Death or serious disability associated with improper use of a device
• Death or serious disability due to an intravascular air embolism
Patient Protection Events
• Infant discharged to the wrong person
• Death or serious disability due to patient’s disappearance for longer than four hours
• Suicide or attempted suicide
Care Management Events
• Death or serious disability due to medication error
• Death or serious disability due to incompatible blood products
• Maternal death or serious disability concurrent with a low-risk pregnancy labor
• Death or serious disability from hypoglycaemia
• Death or serious disability from failure to identify and treat hyperbilirubinemia in neonates
• Stage 3 or 4 pressure ulcers
• Death or serious disability from spinal manipulative therapy
• Death or serious disability from electric shock
• Receipt of wrong oxygen or the line delivering the gas is contaminated by toxic substances
• Patient death or serious disability from burn
• Patient death from fall
• Patient death or serious disability resulting from restraints or bedrails
• Care ordered or provided by someone impersonating a health care professional
• Sexual assault
• Physical assault
The State of Minnesota is required by legislation to report “never events”. In the second year of reporting, there were 53 surgical events, 39 care management events, 4 environmental events, 6 products or devices events, 1 patient protection event and 3 criminal events. Twelve people died and nine suffered serious injuries.
These results demonstrate the high number of surgical and care management events that are by no means typical just for Minnesota. They occur with an alarming degree of regularity across the Nation.
If you have suffered serious disability or lost a loved to a surgical error, it is important to obtain legal advice from an experienced medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible.