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Analyzing surgical malpractice and wrong-site surgery

According to data from the National Practitioner Data Bank, in the year 2012, New York was the top-ranking state for medical malpractice payouts in the nation. As of late, wrong-site surgery errors have been reported more frequently. These highly unforgiving medical mistakes are surgeries performed on the wrong part of the body or on the wrong patient altogether. Likely a fiasco for a surgical team and a disastrous event for a patient, wrong site surgeries are oftentimes caused by a breakdown in communication. The entity known as the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations defines these unforeseen occurrences as sentinel events involving death or serious injury.

Greater than 500 cases of wrong site surgery were reported to the Joint Commission for the nine years leading up to the year 2007. These statistics are from incomplete data, since reporting surgical errors to this organization is voluntary. However, in recent years, incident reporting has increased.

Many patients who experienced wrong site surgery have been awarded compensation after winning a medical malpractice lawsuit. Medical errors are often due to two different types of factors. Both systematic and process factors contribute to the problem. Systematic factors include out-of-the-ordinary time constraints for surgery. Process factors involve incomplete patient examinations.

Wrong-site surgery is usually considered surgical malpractice. According to an analysis done by Diederich Healthcare, a medical malpractice payout was awarded every 43 minutes nationwide in the year 2012. Settlements accounted for more than 90 percent of those payouts. Nearly half of those awards were received by recipients in only five states. New York ranked number one with a figure exceeding $700,000,000 in medical malpractice payouts.

Source: ahrq.gov, "Wrong-Site Surgery: A Preventable Medical Error ", Deborah F. Mulloy and Ronda G. Hughes , September 13, 2014

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