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Study finds that surgical errors include medication mistakes

When Oregon residents think about what can go wrong during a surgical procedure, many of them might not consider that being given the wrong medication is a possibility. Patients are often given more than one medication during a procedure, and if they are not given the proper medication or dosage, it could be disastrous. In fact, one study found that surgical errors involving medications are more common that anyone would like to believe.

The study reviewed 277 surgical procedures performed at an East Coast hospital. In 124 cases, medication errors occurred. A closer review indicated that as high as 80 percent of those mistakes could have been prevented. The mistakes fell into three categories: life-threatening (2 percent), serious (two-thirds) and the remainder were significant. Fortunately, no one died as a result of the errors found in the study.

Harvard researchers point to the fact that strict medication protocols followed by most hospitals are often lax in a surgical suite due to fact that quick decisions may have to be made. Emergencies often increase the possibility of mistakes. The people who comprise the surgical team are human, and that fact alone means that errors can be made even when they believe they are being careful. That may provide a reason for the errors found at Massachusetts General Hospital, but it does not make the errors excusable.

Oregon patients who believe that a medication mistake during a surgical procedure caused them serious harm retain the right to file medical malpractice claims against the party or parties who may be responsible. Surgical errors should not be ignored because even if one patient survives the ordeal, the next person may not. A successfully litigated claim could mean an award of monetary damages for the injured party, but it could also help save a life by forcing medical facilities and their staffs to improve their processes in order to avoid the same mistake from happening again.

Source: CBS News, "Medication errors common during surgery, study finds", Alan Mozes, Oct. 26, 2015

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