The exact frequency of errors in hospitals is difficult to pin point. While some claim that only 1 percent of hospital admissions result in errors, many dispute such findings as they are drawn from studies that only take into account adverse effects that occur soon after the error in question.
Many doctors in fact say that as much as 14 percent of all medical procedure could be handled with better care, as the scope for human error is all too wide. Don’t let this discourage you from traditional western medicine, as it’s still the best option we have, but it is alarming to know you have more chance of waking up mid-surgery than winning the lottery.
1 - Drilling on the Wrong side of the Head
This does not require much explanation, as it is exactly as it sounds. A surgeon in a hospital on Rhode Island was performing an operation to relieve internal bleeding in a patient's skull. The bleeding was on the right side of the head, but the surgeon began to drill on the left. Luckily, he realized his error quickly, and plugged up the left hole and began work in the correct area on the right. Luckily, this patient didn’t suffer from blunder number 2.
2 – Waking up During Surgery
According to the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA), the occurrence of patients waking up mid surgery is rare. However, ‘rare’ according to ASA is 1 to 2 patients in every 1000; not exactly the most comforting numbers!
The best safe guard against this is a type of machine which some hospitals use that measures brain-wave activity and self-awareness. However, the ASA has recommended that there is not enough evidence to support a requirement that they be used for in every surgery. It would sure be nice, though!
3 – Leftovers
The human body is not a doggy bag. Strangely enough, some doctors seem to misunderstand this simple fact and leave behind bits and bobs from around the operating theatre inside their patients. The press loves stories like this, and everyone’s heard a story about something ridiculous like scissors being left in a patient’s body. Maybe it’s not the fault of tabloid articles that everyone has heard of this type of mix-up, though; as it turns out, this is one of the most commonly occurring medical mishaps!
4 – Losing your Marbles
In another case of doctors who can’t seem to tell left from right, a 47-year-old Air Force veteran named Benjamin Houghton had the incorrect testicle removed.
Mr. Houghton had been complaining about pain and shrinking in his left testicle, and urged doctors to schedule surgery to remove the offensive testis for fear that it may be cancerous. The surgical blunder led to a $200,000 lawsuit from Houghton and his wife, and the results of the case are yet to unfold.
It is maybe forgivable to confuse left and right, what with mirrors and other reflective surfaces causing much confusion to even the most intelligent five year old. Confusing one organ for another, is another thing altogether, as we see in blunder number five:
5 – Kidney Removed Instead of Gallbladder
To be fair on doctors, they do have to perform under a wide range of difficult and unchartered scenarios. An 84-year-old woman was to have her infected gallbladder removed, but due to sever internal bleeding and the poor condition of her organs, it was only after the kidney was removed that surgeons realized it was, in fact, not her gallbladder.
What’s even worse? The doctors decided that after all, with the patient recovered from the botched surgery, she didn’t need the gallbladder removed after all.
Jeff Meyers is guest author for DSC Attorneys, specializing in medical malpractice lawsuits.