Nationwide, an estimated 40 wrong-site incidents occur per week. A wrong-site incident is defined as a medical procedure performed incorrectly, done on the wrong side of the patient, or even if the wrong patient undergoes the procedure. Many of these cases turn out to be relatively minor, but some of them can lead to life altering results and even death. Regardless of the severity, wrong-site incidents are considered “never” events – meaning they should never occur in the first place and are entirely avoidable.
An 11-year old boy in Orlando was killed in 2013 during a wrong-site incident when his surgeon placed a mechanical implant in the wrong heart valve. Two years later, the doctor was fined $30,000. In the early 2000s, severe wrong-sites incidents were on the rise in Florida. While they were not always fatal, they often had dire consequences, such as the amputation of a patient’s wrong leg in Tampa. In an effort to reduce these incidents, the Board of Medicine adopted the “time out” policy, which required doctors and their teams to “time out” should any of them leave the room before cutting into a patient. However, in incidents that continued to happen, it was found that this policy was not enforced.
According to the WPTV Contact 5, despite the fact that these incidents are not rare occurrences, the people of Florida are not being informed about this statewide issue. So far, this year alone, 16 licensed doctors were disciplined. It is estimated that, by the end of the year, the total may likely exceed last year’s total of 19.
Unfortunately, not all states report wrong-site incidents and, those that do, still have problems with total transparency, sometimes only posting a quarterly number of incidents and keeping the actual reports confidential as is the case with Florida. Until these practices improve, shedding more light on this terrible and preventable issue, there are measures you can take, such as making sure you have a patient identifier wristband with the correct information, to avoid becoming a wrong-site victim. Asking a trusted family member or friend to be your advocate is also beneficial, as well as educating yourself about your illness and any medications you may take.
At Clark, Fountain, La Vista, Prather & Littky-Rubin, we specialize in many areas of practice, including medical malpractice, which we know can be complicated and lengthy. Our attorneys have the skills to go up against any negligent healthcare provider no matter how resourced they are. Contact us for a free consultation at 561-922-0258