It sounds shocking, but sometimes doctors operate on the wrong body part or on the wrong side of the body. This is known as “wrong-site surgery” (WSS).
According to a study by The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations, there are 1,300 to 2,700 wrong-site procedures performed in the United States every year. But these numbers may be just a fraction of the actual numbers since healthcare organizations are not actually required to report such mistakes to the Commission. Some estimate surgeons operate on the wrong part of the body as often as 40 times a week. Sometimes they even operate on the wrong person.
Wrong-site surgery victims
Sad stories abound. In a wrong-person case, an 81-year-old woman went into the hospital for surgery on her fractured jaw; but the staff mixed up her CT scan with another patient’s, and the doctors operated on her brain for a brain bleed. Unfortunately, the woman never recovered from the wrong-site surgery and died shortly thereafter. Her family sued and was awarded $21 million by a jury.
In another neurological wrong-site case, a neurosurgeon removed healthy tissue on the wrong side of a patient’s brain instead of cancerous tissue on the other side. The patient is now unable to speak, eat, drink, or swallow normally; disgracefully, the neurosurgeon did not tell the patient of the mistake.
Florida also has a number of prominent examples of wrong-site surgeries in recent years. A Tampa doctor operated on the wrong testicle of his patient, then realizing his mistake, operated also on the correct testicle. A Fort Myers eye doctor performed laser surgery on the wrong eye of his patient. A Florida surgeon twice within months operated on the wrong leg of two different patients. A Naples surgeon worked on a 19-month-old’s hernia but removed part of his testicle. An Orlando doctor put a mechanical implant into the wrong heart valve of an 11-year-old boy, who then died five weeks later.
Causes of wrong-site surgery
According to the Commission’s analysis, the root causes of WSS include communication failure (74%), procedural non-compliance (64%), and poor leadership (46%). Many other causes exist, including poor staff training or insufficient staffing, incompetence, unusual time pressures (emergency surgery), multiple surgeons, multiple procedures in the same surgery, inadequate planning and patient assessment, and failure to recheck patient information before beginning the procedure.
WSSs most commonly occur in orthopedic or podiatric procedures, general surgery, and urological and neurosurgical procedures. Many of these cases have been taken to court and patients have received compensation for their pain and suffering. One study indicates that 79% of wrong-site eye surgery and 84% of wrong-site orthopedic procedures resulted in malpractice awards.
If you’ve had surgery or another procedure and a medical practitioner has performed the procedure on the wrong body part, you deserve compensation for your pain and suffering. Suing the doctors involved may also prevent others from suffering harm from incompetent healthcare practitioners.
As a Florida personal injury lawyer, I am committed to helping Florida residents throughout the state receive just and fair compensation to help them cope with the injuries they have sustained through someone else’s negligence. Contact me at (954) 448-7288, 24/7 for a free consultation to see how I can help you.