Mistakes by surgeons happen more often than you might think

People generally have a deep respect for medical professionals. After all, physicians attend almost a decade of higher education to earn their title and the potential ability to legally practice medicine. Surgeons, more so than general practice physicians, tend to command respect by people who cannot imagine operating on another human.

While physicians and surgeons certainly deserve respect for their education and the service they provide, you can never forget that surgeons are fallible humans who can make dire mistakes. Surgical mistakes are frighteningly common, despite the fact that most of them are preventable with proper procedures in the operating room.

Roughly 80 surgeries each week result in a major mistake that those in the medical field refer to as “never events.” The title implies that these mistakes should never happen because they are preventable. Still, they do occur, and when they do, they have a profound impact on the patient who may require additional surgery or have a lifelong handicap to overcome as a result of the medical mistake during surgery.

Doctors often leave things inside people’s bodies

While the surgeon forgetting their watch inside a patient’s incision or an observer dropping a piece of candy onto the surgical table may make for compelling or funny moments in movies and television shows, these stories have some basis in real-world happenings.

An estimated 39 operations each week will result in a surgeon leaving something like a sponge inside a patient’s body. These foreign objects are often quite dangerous, even if they would not pose a threat outside of the human body. They can cause acute immune responses as well as infection. Many times, a second surgery becomes necessary to remove the objects from the patient’s body before they cause issues.

Surgeons also operate on the wrong person or the wrong body part

Many surgeons will have to perform more than one procedure on any given day. As a result, it is possible for mistakes to happen. Approximately 20 surgeries each week results in a doctor performing the wrong surgery on the wrong patient. Another 20 patients may experience a doctor performing the right procedure on the wrong body part.

Examples of this kind of mistake range from a doctor removing the wrong ovary from a patient with cancer to performing corrective carpal tunnel surgery on a wrist and forearm not impacted by the disease. These surgical mistakes can leave someone permanently disabled. They can also produce a variety of consequences, including the need for corrective surgery for the improper surgery and the ongoing need to perform the original operation as ordered.

Anyone who suffers from the consequences of a surgical mistake may be able to hold the doctor or hospital involved accountable through a medical malpractice insurance claim or lawsuit.