Operating room mistakes appear to remain a widespread medical malpractice problem. A recent report on surgical error medical negligence noted doctors removing a cancer patient’s healthy kidney while leaving the diseased one behind, removing the wrong patient’s appendix, and operating on a patient’s wrong side.
Serious consequences of surgical error
Surgical team members may also cause or contribute to devastating personal injury or wrongful death. A serious mistake by an anesthesiologist may cause severe and permanent brain damage. Even a nurse’s failure to keep a correct count of tools can leave a patient with retained surgical instruments or sponges, cause a serious post-surgery infection, and require the pain of a second surgery.
A 2006 article published in the medical journal Archives of Surgery concluded that the following types of surgical errors occur across all medical specialties:
wrong side surgery errors
wrong site surgery errors
wrong surgical procedure errors
wrong patient errors
High numbers of medical mistakes were noted in orthopedic and dental surgery. Another 2006 study showed that sixty-five percent of surgical mistake cases examined involved significant or major injury, and twenty-three percent involved death. Surgeon-reviewers examined the litigation file and medical record in 444 malpractice cases and identified surgical errors that resulted in patient injury in more than half of these claims.
Time limits on surgical mistake claims
Serious surgical errors such as removing the wrong limb or organ or operating on the wrong part of the body may result from what should be easily avoidable clerical mistakes by surgeons or support staff. Healthcare providers must be held accountable when such unnecessary errors cause harm. The time period for filing a claim for surgical negligence or any other medical malpractice claim in Oregon, however, is only two years.