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Do Surgeons Make Mistakes?

High expectations are always brought upon professionals since most people expect them to be flawless or their job to not have imperfections. But of course, mistakes are inevitable since they are also human.

But in a situation of life and death, can a professional really afford to make mistakes?

In this article, you will know whether professionals make mistakes in their line of work. In this case, we will specifically discuss surgeons. Do they make mistakes? What happens to them if they do?

What is a Surgical Error?

Before we discuss whether medical practitioners make mistakes in the operation room, we should define what a surgical error is. Surgical errors are defined as medical negligence claims or it could also be defined as a medical malpractice. This happens when something goes wrong during a surgery or the after the surgery when a patient experiences negative results from the surgery. This can be avoided.

Do Surgeons Make Mistakes?

To answer the question, yes, even medical professionals make mistakes and the impact would be most critical if a surgeon makes a single one since their responsibility is to operate on patients and surgical operations are extremely hard since surgeons deal with repairing or removing a patient’s tissues, organs, and other body parts and a single mistake could cost a patient’s life.

In Australia, the field of surgery of medical practice is a highly skilled area and there are some risks that are involved with every surgery. Despite the high standard of surgical care in Australia, some things are unavoidable and some situations could still go wrong. Complications could still arise even if the surgical care was done with excellent medical skill. However, there are also some errors that could still be unavoidable.

What Kind of Mistakes do Surgeons Make?

This mistake is called malpractice and it is a preventable mistake however, there are just some instances when a professional could get careless. Some examples of malpractice are performing a wrong procedure on the patient or leaving a sponge, perhaps a gauze, or any foreign object inside a patient’s body after surgery.

Here are some of the surgical errors that happens commonly:

  1. Causing an infection to take place at or close to the surgical site.
  2. Failure to finish the surgical procedure appropriately.
  3. Causing unnecessary damage or nerve damage at the surgical site.

How to Prevent Mistakes in Performing Surgery?

If these said mistakes can be preventable, then what are the possible ways to avoid such life threatening malpractices?

According to research, most medical centers practice patient-safety procedures such as mandatory “time-outs” inside an operating room to ensure the medical records and surgical plans will match the patient on the table or the patient they will be operating on.

In addition to this, surgeons would count the sponges they will be using and other equipment before and after the surgery to ensure that they did not misplace it somewhere else or accidentally left it inside the body of a patient. Surgeons also create surgical checklist, and they would mark the patient’s body beforehand with indelible ink to make sure that they will be operating on the correct site of the body since a common mistake takes place in an operating room when the surgeon did not do the incision on the correct site of the body part, which lead to damaging other parts of the body that was supposed to be untouched or uninvolved with the surgical process.

Another safety precaution that medical practitioners practice within the operation room, is that they use newly advanced technological tools to secure a patient’s safety. Some surgeons use surgical sponges with radiofrequency tags that are easily detectable by a scanner just in case the sponge was accidentally left inside of the patient’s body. This newly improved tool will help reduce the risks of mistakes while operating on a patient.

What are the Consequences and Legal Actions Against It?

For the Patients:

It is quite obvious that when a patient is a victim of a professional’s negligence or malpractice in an operating room, there is a possibility that their condition would get worse. Infections could occur which in the worst case scenario, could lead to a patient’s death.

A patient or their family relative could file a lawsuit against the surgeon who performed the malpractice or to the hospital. However, in some cases, patients do not really pay much attention to having the professional get their punishment but instead, they only want the compensation in order to recover from the malpractice.

For the Surgeons:

For the surgeons, well, getting sued for professional negligence does induces anxiety since the surgeons who caused the malpractice could get civil action against them, the patient or their relative could press criminal charges against the surgeons, and they will undergo medical board discipline, in which some of the disciplinary actions include the following:

  1. Having the surgeon’s license restricted. In general, when a medical practitioner has their license restricted, they are limited to practice medicine.
  2. License surrendered. It is possible that a surgeon will have no choice but to surrender their license during the disciplinary investigation towards them. In this case, a surrendered license might be renewed, reinstated, or restored. The surgeon will have to regain licensure to continue their medical practices but they have to undergo a written exam for it, first.
  3. Undergo probation. A medical practitioner is placed on probation in order for their license to be monitored by the issuing state board for a specific period of time.
  4. License is suspended. When a physician’s license is suspended, that physician will be suspended from practicing medicine in their state or territory until the medical board issues grants them the permission to do so.
  5. Monetary fine. The state board may impose a monetary fine against the physician as a disciplinary action although this only happens in some cases.
  6. License is restricted. As a disciplinary action against the professional who performed negligence, their license would get restricted which means that their medical practice will have to be restricted or limited. Licensure restrictions could also lead to loss of clinical privileges.

Sources:
https://www.mdlinx.com/article/top-disciplinary-actions-taken-by-medical-boards/lfc-3293

https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(14)00439-X/pdf

https://www.slatergordon.com.au/personal-injury/medical-negligence-law/surgical-errors#:~:text=Surgical%20errors%2C%20in%20the%20context,could%20reasonably%20have%20been%20avoided.&text=Although%20the%20standard%20of%20surgical,high%2C%20things%20can%20go%20wrong

https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/news/20121220/thousands-mistakes-surgery#:~:text=When%20Mistakes%20Occur,older%20surgeons%20over%20age%2060.

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