Beebe and O'Neil

Surgical error and disclosure practices

Patients in Connecticut who are planning on undergoing a surgical procedure probably expect their doctor to admit if something goes wrong with the procedure. While medical teams are strongly encouraged to make a full disclosure to the patient when a mistake is made, studies have found this does not occur in many situations. This can negatively affect both the patient and surgeon.

According to CBS News, surgeons are particularly prone to technical errors such as clumsiness or slips. Mistakes tend to occur more frequently in emergency situations, when microscopes are required and when strength is needed for the procedure. Some common errors include accidently damaging a bodily structure, such as a nerve or organ, and leaving a sponge or other object in the body.

Doctors who make a mistake are encouraged to follow eight disclosure practices, but studies show only some are followed on a regular basis. These include:

  • Admitting the error within 24 hours
  • Explaining why the mistake happened
  • Taking steps to fix additional issues 
  • Showing concern and expressing regret

Hospitals are beginning to change the way they approach medical errors. Instead of staying silent, many of them have implemented full disclosure policies, in which the healthcare worker cannot be punished for reporting errors.

According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, healthcare facilities have also put into place procedures to help prevent errors from occurring. A surgical timeout is one of these, and its purpose is to improve communication between all relevant personnel. This gives time before the procedure to review all the important aspects before beginning. There are also safety checklists, which help improve safety both during and after the operation.

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