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Will your surgeon tell you (s)he made an error?

When you undergo a surgical procedure at an Arizona hospital, you put your life in the hands of your surgeon and the other operating room doctors, nurses and ancillary personnel. You expect all of them to possess the necessary skill and experience to operate on you and make you better. The last thing you expect is for one of them, particularly your surgeon, to make a mistake that could result in your injury or death.

As CBS News reported, when such a surgical error occurs, your surgeon should divulge the mistake to you per the national guidelines recommending such disclosure. Unfortunately, however, barely three-fifths of surgeons do, in fact, disclose the following things to their affected patients:

  • What type of surgical error occurred
  • How the error occurred and why
  • How badly (s)he feels about having committed the error
  • The level of concern (s)he feels with regard to your welfare
  • The steps (s)he intends to take to treat any problems you incur as a result of the error

Furthermore, of the surgeons who reported disclosing the above information to patients whose operations involved a surgical error, only 55 percent of them said that they apologized to their affected patients for committing the error.

Kinds of surgical errors

It should come as no surprise to you that surgery entails the risk of numerous types of errors, including the following:

  • The hospital staff could mix you up with another patient.
  • Your anesthesiologist could give you the wrong amount of anesthesia.
  • Your surgeon could operate on the wrong part of your body.
  • (S)he could accidently cut or otherwise injure one or more of your arteries, veins, nerves, etc.
  • (S)he could accidently leave a foreign body inside yours, such as a sponge, clamp, etc.

Ask questions

Since you have no reason to assume that your surgeon will tell you about any error that may have occurred during your operation, or immediately preceding or succeeding it, your best strategy is to ask plenty of questions once you have recovered sufficiently to do so. Few, if any, surgeons will outright lie to you if you specifically ask them about surgical errors.

The foregoing information is educational only and you should not consider it as legal advice.

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