Medical negligence: leaving surgical instruments inside patients

Wednesday October 30, 2013

Often, patients go to the operating room to have something unhealthy in their body removed. However, a recent report reveals that a lot of patients coming out of the operating room unfortunately come out with something extra inside their bodies.

New Haven, Connecticut patients should be extra cautious in choosing where to have surgeries performed, especially after a health care safety watchdog has reported a number of cases where foreign objects have been left inside patients. The Joint Commission warns that, since 2005, almost 800 patients have had medical instruments left inside their bodies with 16 cases turning fatal. Ninety-five percent of the cases lead to the patients’ extended stay in the hospital.

Incidences were more likely to occur during emergency surgery and when there is an unexpected change of procedure. According to the chief medical officer of the heath care safety watchdog, such instances are not uncommon. Nevertheless, the commission’s chief also said that the problems are preventable.

Surgical instruments left inside patients range from sponges to towels to needles. Regardless of the type of instrument or object that is left inside, they clearly do not belong inside a patient and can cause serious health issues. Besides health complications resulting in physical and emotional distress, cases also take a financial toll on patients.

Typically, a lack of policies, failure to follow existing policies and miscommunication between doctors causes the incidents. Poor medical staff education, intimidation and hospital hierarchy issues were also cited as reasons. The report is calling for more standardized procedures to prevent incidences. It recommends a technician and a nurse doing the count before and after the procedure.

Unnecessarily placing patients at risk is a clear sign of medical negligence. In such a situation, a hospital and a medical practitioner can be held responsible for medical malpractice. Patients can be awarded compensation to make up for the physical, emotional and financial damage.

Source: CBS News, “Nearly 800 Surgical Tools Left In Patients Since 2005: Report,” Ryan Jaslow, Oct. 18, 2013

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