Belsky Weinberg & Horowitz, LLC A Personal Injury & Workers’ Compensation Law Firm

Patients and human behavior-related surgical errors

Maryland surgical patients may take interest in a Mayo Clinic research study that examined the causes of 'never events," a term that is used to describe surgical mistakes that should never happen. Among 1.5 million invasive procedures performed over a five-year span at the Minnesota clinic, 69 never events were identified. Researchers determined that these never events were caused by 628 distinct human factors and that roughly four to nine human factors contributed to each surgical error.

The 69 never events occurred involved wrong site and wrong body side errors as well as implanting the wrong device and leaving a foreign object inside the patient's body. Nearly two-thirds of the never events observed during the study occurred during minor procedures such as endoscopies and line placements. Even highly-trained medical teams were capable of making serious medical errors.

Errors were also grouped into four categories, including preconditions for action, unsafe action, oversight and supervisory factors, and organizational influences. Researchers expressed the belief that communication within medical teams is an essential component of preventing never events. They also suggested that hospitals should pay close attention to cognitive capacity such as team composition, technology interfaces, time pressures placed on team members and fatigue.

Patients who are harmed by surgical errors such as foreign objects left inside the body or the improper use of medical equipment may be entitled to compensation. A medical malpractice attorney may help an injured victim prepare a lawsuit for damages by examining the patient's medical records and obtaining the testimony of experts in order to make a determination that there was a failure to follow the requisite standard of care by a member of the surgical staff or another health care practitioner.

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