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Wrong-site surgery blamed on hospital negligence

Wrong-site surgeries are the things of horror movies or dramatic television shows. Characters awaken from anesthesia, groggy and confused, only to find that their operation took place on the completely wrong side of their body. Unfortunately, this type of hospital negligence is not isolated to the big screen, and real-live patients in New Jersey suffer the consequences of negligent surgeons.

An out-of-state hospital was fined by its local Department of Public Health over serious failures to follow proper pre-surgical procedures. The incident began when a patient sought help from his physician for a problematic finger. The physician determined that he had suffered serious tendon damage in his ring finger on his left hand, making him unable to stretch the finger straight. He recommended surgery and faxed a referral for surgery that indicated exactly where the surgery should be performed.

From there, things began to go downhill when the physician sent over the surgical order that did not indicate which finger required the operation. The included consent form that should have allowed staff to confirm the correct finger did not include the necessary information, either. The attending surgeon also failed to mark the finger prior to surgery, only marking the left hand, and no "time out" was taken for the staff to confirm with another that they were operating on the correct finger, much less the correct patient. Under hospital policy, a time out should always be performed before beginning an operation. A later investigation concluded that the hospital staff did not adhere to correct procedure.

Surgeries performed on otherwise healthy body parts or organs not only require secondary surgery in order to address the original issue, can create health problems that otherwise would have never existed. This level of hospital negligence is especially troubling when hospitals in New Jersey typically have extensive procedures to prevent such things from happening. While local medical boards might levy fines against the hospital or attending surgeon, victims can utilize evidence collected through that investigation to seek their own compensation for related damages.

Source:, "Twin Cities hospital fined for operating on wrong finger", Janet Lavelle, Jan. 28, 2016

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Alan D. Bell
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