As a Florida medical malpractice lawyer, nothing shocks me more than cases of wrong-site surgery. This is such a fundamental and avoidable blunder I am surprised that it occurs at all. Wrong-site surgeries are where doctors, hospitals or other health-care providers simply operate on the wrong site, perform the wrong procedure or perform a procedure on the wrong patient.

In 2004 the Joint Commission, a not-for-profit organization that accredits and certifies hospitals and other health-care organizations in the United States, approved a Universal Protocol for Preventing Wrong Site Procedures and Surgeries.

The Universal Protocol provides a step-by-step verification process that addresses information or discrepancies before a procedure is even started. Once the information is obtained and verified the procedure site must be marked in a specific way. As a Miami medical mistake lawyer, I believe that one of the most crucial steps that is often overlooked is the involvement of the patient in the marking process. Obviously marking is not possible in all types of procedures, especially those that involve internal organs or interventional procedures where catheters are used.

Lastly, the Universal Protocol requires a “time out” so that all team members, surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses and techs can all agree that they have the correct patient, correct site and correct procedure. When multiple procedures are performed on the same patient another time out should be called before starting each procedure.

A recent Archives of Surgery study showed that 72 percent of wrong-site procedures occurred because the doctor failed to participate in the time out. Hospitals are quick to blame doctors when this happens but its a surgical team failure whenever a surgery begins on the wrong site.

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