In a recent post, we wrote about a surgeon who operated on the wrong eye of her patient. Because medical malpractice is unnervingly common in New York, we followed-up with a list of things patients can do to help prevent surgical errors.
In that post, we discussed three tips to help prevent medical mistakes. The tips included questioning the surgeon, questioning the operating team and clearly identifying yourself each time a new member of the medical staff talks with you. Today, we have three more tips that can help eliminate wrong-side surgeries, operating on the wrong patient and other medical nightmares.
- Read the informed consent forms: Before a patient has surgery, he or she is given consent forms. The forms explain what will happen during the surgery, as well as potential side effects and negative complications. Because it can be frightening to think about the risks before an operation, many patients simply sign the forms without reading them. Reading the forms carefully can help ensure the doctors are performing the correct surgery on the correct person.
- Have the surgical site initialed: Before a patient is given any anesthesia, surgeons write their initials on the surgical site. Some surgeons draw the lines where the actual incisions will be; others just leave their names. Regardless of what they do, it is important to make sure the surgeon, not the nurse or someone else, clearly leaves their mark on the surgical site.
- Trust your gut: Some people have a hard time trusting their guts. They think nervousness is normal, and they assume there is no reason to mention their concerns to anyone on the medical staff. In reality, if something seems off, that might be because some is wrong. If anything seems unusual, tell the surgeon or a nurse. It may be appropriate to postpone the surgery until you know concretely that there are no problems.
Doctors are responsible for protecting the safety of their patients. However, the president of the National Patient Safety Foundation said that patients can also play a large role in their health. Involvement is key, and it’s imperative to be proactive about protecting your health.
Source: CNN Health, “Patients, beware of wrong-side surgeries,” Sabriya Rice, 28 April 2011