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In The News – Surgical Mistakes

A recent article in the Los Angeles Times is one of the many reports this year to focus on “never events” – medical errors that are so negligent and reckless that they should never occur.

As a cost-cutting measure, federal programs such as Medicaid and Medicare announced that they would stop paying for preventable medical mistakes such as wrong-site surgeries, wrong-patient operations, and followup surgeries to remove objects left in a patient by a doctor. Some states have also ramped up their fines of hospitals that have poor patient outcomes and serious medical malpractice incidents.

Researchers from the prestigious Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine estimate that surgeons leave sponges and other foreign objects in patients at least 39 times a week. These incidents are sometimes not discovered for years when a patient complains of unexplained pain.

A study done on California hospitals reveals that 850 patients in that state have had objects left in them during the past 5 years. About 70 of these cases resulted in state fines and increased monitoring.

Most hospitals perform counts of all of their surgical equipment to prevent these incidents from occurring.

The majority of medical malpractice incidents are not as extreme and identifiable as an object left in a patient which is one of the reasons that medical malpractice is grossly underreported in Illinois and around the country.