Thousands of hospital patients in Illinois and around the country suffer injuries each year because of errors made during surgical procedures. When researchers from a leading insurance provider studied medical malpractice lawsuits filed between 2014 and 2018 that resulted in a settlement or award, they discovered that surgical errors were the second leading cause of action. One in four of the cases studied was involved a patient who was injured because a surgeon made a mistake.
A surgeon’s mistake or misjudgment was the negligent act cited in more than three-quarters of the 2,579 surgery-related medical malpractice cases studied, and many of the plaintiffs suffered debilitating injuries as a result of these errors. Almost one in three of these patients suffered injuries that were classified as significant and permanent, and 9% of them died. In 39% of these cases, the plaintiffs claimed the surgeon made their mistake because they lacked the technical skills needed to perform the operation properly.
Less common surgical errors
The study reveals that mistakes are sometimes made during operations even when surgeons are experienced and skilled. Almost one in five of the surgery-related lawsuits were filed because a surgeon left a sponge or surgical implement inside a patient, performed a procedure that was not needed or operated on the wrong part of a patient’s body or the wrong patient. The researchers found that many of these errors were made because surgeons were distracted, and they urged hospitals to ban music, cellphones and visitors in operating theaters to keep surgeons focused.
Patients usually choose to undergo surgery because the consequences of not doing so would be severe, and they must place their trust in the surgeons who perform the procedures. This study suggests that this trust is misplaced more often than the medical profession would care to admit.