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Over 135 Years of Combined Experience In Personal Injury and Wrongful Death

Surgical errors and disclosure

Many Pennsylvania residents will undergo surgery in their lifetimes. A survey involving surgeons at three hospitals run by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs found that the majority of surgeons will report an adverse event when something goes wrong during a procedure. However, the study found that 55 percent would apologize to the patient or patient's family or discuss whether the error could have been prevented.

After a mistake during surgery, most of the approximately 60 surgeons who were surveyed stated that they would disclose the error within 24 hours, explain to the patient or family why the error occurred, express regret, show concern, and take additional steps to repair the mistake. The study also looked at how doctors felt about disclosing surgical errors and found that those who had trouble disclosing a mistake were more likely to be negatively affected by it.

Disclosure practices have changed over the years. Surgeons once operated under a code of silence, but now hospitals are implementing disclosure policies. Typically, any mistake that would change the expected results of the surgery or cause an extra treatment or test to be ordered should be disclosed. Some of the most common medical mistakes involve physical slips, such as cutting a nerve or cutting into the patient's bladder accidentally. Other common mistakes involve leaving objects or instruments behind or even operating on the wrong area of the body.

A person who has been harmed by a doctor's mistake during surgery that results in a worsened condition may wish to consult a medical malpractice attorney. In many cases, figuring out what went wrong requires a careful look at the patient's medical records. A medical malpractice attorney will typically consult medical experts to see if the mistake amounted to negligence.

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