Anyone who must undergo some manner of operation knows through their conversations with surgeons and their own research or personal experience that there is always some degree of risk involved. Indeed, postoperative complications can arise, infections can develop, and the underlying disease or condition can remain unchanged.
However, there is at least one aspect of surgery about which patients should be able to have complete confidence: avoiding wrong-site, wrong-procedure, wrong-patient errors or simply WSPEs. That’s because these types of surgical errors are typically 100 percent preventable and considered so flagrant that federal health officials have labeled them as “never events,” meaning they should simply never occur.
The unfortunate reality, however, is that even though WSPEs should never occur, they still do — and often with devastating results.
By way of example, consider a recent case out of Pennsylvania, where a man went to his urologist back in 2013 complaining of unrelenting pain in his right testicle. Here, it was determined that damage and scarring from a previous injury had caused the testicle to atrophy, a condition necessitating its surgical removal via a procedure known as an orchiectomy.
For reasons that are still unknown, the surgeon failed to track the spermatic cord up into the man’s body and, as a result, accidentally removed the left testicle. Indeed, he claimed that the testicles had somehow switched sides, something that the plaintiff’s attorney indicated was extremely unlikely given the existence of certain anatomical structures.
Not surprisingly, the man filed a medical malpractice lawsuit in 2014 against the surgeon and the hospital at which the botched procedure was performed, citing negligence by both parties. The case finally made its way to trial and the jury reached a verdict last week, awarding the man $870,000, including $250,000 in punitive damages, for the harm he has endured.
In the wake of horrific cases like these, questions naturally arise as to what can — and should — be done to prevent WSPEs.
According to the Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare, some simple steps surgeons can take to prevent these egregious errors include marking surgical sites beforehand, and eliminating OR distractions.
If you’ve been seriously injured or lost a loved one owing to what you believe was medical malpractice, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional to learn more about your rights and your options.