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Rhode Island: Surgical error is preventable with precautions

Most patients go into surgery with faith in their physicians. They hope, at least, the correct site will be operated on and no surgical error will be made. In Rhode Island over a decade ago, one hospital was guilty of allowing five wrong-site surgeries to happen within a span of three years resulting in fines and policy changes. When physicians make serious errors, patients must turn to medical malpractice lawsuits to rectify the situation. 

In the case of the Rhode Island hospital, the location was fined $150,000. The hospital was also required to implement mandatory safety training, with an additional safety monitor on staff to ensure that surgical teams followed protocols. Additionally, audio and video monitoring equipment was placed in operating rooms to record the conversations and music happening during surgery. The new measures appear to have reduced surgical errors at that hospital, likely due to the increased attention being placed on safety. 

These types of accidents are preventable with increased attention and patient involvement. A patient should be able to indicate and mark the expected site of any surgery. The patient should also look over and initial a diagram of the surgical site and sign off on the expected area for surgery. Other steps to prevent mistakes include a time-out before any cuts are made and double checking all the documentation. 

When a clear surgical error has been made, the doctor may be facing a medical malpractice lawsuit. A patient who has been harmed by a physician has every right to seek compensation for any damages, pain and suffering, and costs of future surgeries. An experienced medical malpractice attorney can guide an injured person on the best practices for seeking justice. 

Source:, "Melanoma and the wrong site", David J. Goldberg, M.D., J.D., July 31, 2017

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