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Will your doctor reveal a surgical mistake?

When you undergo surgery in a Montana hospital, you do not expect that anything will go wrong during your operation. Unfortunately, however, medical errors do occur in the operating room and other departments of hospitals throughout the country. Today, more than 250,000 patients die annually from them, making medical errors the third leading cause of death in the United States.

While national guidelines encourage your surgeon and hospital to tell you about any mishap that occurs during your operation, CBS News reports that many physicians and hospitals fail to disclose such information to patients and their families.

Alarming statistics

Per a recent survey, only 62.5 percent of surgeons admitted to disclosing the following information to affected patients after a mishap occurs:

  • How and why it happened
  • How unhappy they feel about it
  • How concerned they are for the patient’s welfare
  • What steps they intend taking to treat any new problems the error causes

Worse yet, only 55 percent of the surgeons said they apologized for the mishap and/or discussed its preventability with the affected patient.

Surgical error examples

Common surgical errors include the following:

  • Operating on the wrong patient
  • Operating on the wrong body part
  • Administering too much or two little anesthesia
  • Accidentally cutting or injuring a vein, artery, nerve, etc.
  • Inadvertently leaving a foreign inside the patient such as a sponge or clamp

Avoiding liability

Fear of financial liability ranks as the number one reason surgeons give for failing to reveal a surgical error. Once patients know an error occurred, they likely file a medical malpractice lawsuit. Fear of reprisal from the hospital for which they work ranks as the number two reason given for failing to disclose.

Although full disclosure slowly becomes the norm rather than the exception, your best strategy after undergoing a surgical procedure is to specifically ask your surgeon if anything went wrong, and if so, what and how. (S)he likely will not lie to you when faced with specific questions. This is general educational information and not intended to provide legal advice.

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