When you enter a Connecticut hospital to undergo surgery, the last thing you expect is that something will go wrong during your procedure. Unfortunately, however, medical errors, including those that occur during surgery, are frighteningly common. In fact, medical errors represent the third leading cause of death in the United States. Over 250,000 patients die every year as the result of such mishaps.
National guidelines recommend that your surgeon and hospital fully disclose to you and your family members any surgical or other mistake they made and apologize for it. Nevertheless, many doctors and the hospitals for which they work fail to do so.
A recent survey of surgeons revealed that only 62.5 percent of them disclosed the following information to their patients and/or their families:
- Why the error happened
- How badly they feel about it
- How concerned they are for their patient’s welfare
- The steps they will take to treat any new problems the error causes
Only 55 percent of the surgeons reported that they also apologized for the error and/or discussed whether or not it was preventable.
Types of surgical errors
Sadly, many opportunities for error exist any time you face surgery, including the following:
- The surgical staff may mistake you for another patient.
- The surgeon may operate on your wrong body part.
- The anesthesiologist may give you too much or too little anesthesia or may give you one to which you are allergic.
- The surgeon may make the incision at the wrong location on your body.
- The surgeon may accidentally cut or otherwise injure an artery, vein, nerve or one of your organs during surgery.
- The surgeon may inadvertently leave a sponge or instrument inside your body when closing your incision.
As you might expect, surgeons and their hospitals worry about their financial liability should they reveal a medical error to you. They know that you likely will file a medical malpractice lawsuit against them.
In addition, many doctors, nurses and other health care professionals fear they may face some form of recrimination from their hospitals for admitting they made a mistake. Such was the case of a Seattle nurse who admitted to accidentally overdosing an infant with medication. The baby subsequently died and the nurse ultimately committed suicide after she was first placed on administrative leave, then fired, and then required to engage in a battle to keep her nursing license.
While disclosing surgical and other medical errors to affected patients is slowly becoming the norm rather than a rarity, your best strategy after surgery is to specifically ask your surgeon if anything went wrong during your procedure, and if so, what it was. In addition, be on the lookout for any post-surgery symptoms that seem unrelated to your specific surgery.