Study sheds light on medical mishaps

Study sheds light on medical mishaps

A recent study from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore shows that doctors operating on the wrong body part or medical instruments being left inside the body could lead to medical malpractice claims and happen more frequently than we think.

After analyzing malpractice claims from throughout the nation, the patient safety researchers at the university estimated that a U.S. surgeon leaves an object inside a patient 39 times each week. In addition, the surgeon operates 20 times each week on the wrong body part and performs an incorrect procedure the same amount of times weekly.

In all, the researchers estimated that at least 80,000 such incidents occurred in U.S. hospitals in the two decades from 1990 through 2010. The study calls these “never events,” which means there is an agreement that these things should never happen.

The head of the study said there are some things that that cannot be prevented in surgery even if everything is done right, such as a patient suffering an infection. The “never events,” however are preventable, and the medical industry has work to do to put an end to them, the researcher said.

Contributing to the study were statistics from the National Practitioner Data Bank, which records medical malpractice claims and charts settlements paid. Using those statistics, it is estimated that 4,044 “never events” occur each year. Hospitals must, by law, report “never events” to the federal government.

Studies such as this can help to raise awareness about surgical errors and put an end to them. Because of such work, American hospitals should become safer places, leading to greater patient care and a reduction in the number of number of malpractice claims. That is good news for all people who must undergo surgery.

Source: Claims Journal, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Dec. 21, 2012

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