We see way too many instances of medical malpractice at our law firm. It’s a shame, because 90+ percent of the doctors I’ve known have been careful, caring professionals. Like lawyers, doctors are sometimes ill-served by staff, and of course it’s the doctors who get the blame.
A recent article from the Associated Press points out how simple checklists could prevent many instances of medical malpractice. Here are excerpts:
Scrawl on the patient with a permanent marker to show where the surgeon should cut. Ask the person’s name to make sure you have the right patient. Count sponges to make sure you didn’t leave any inside the body. Doctors worldwide who followed a checklist of steps like these cut the death rate from surgery almost in half and complications by more than a third in a large international study of how to avoid blatant operating room mistakes.
The results — most dramatic in developing countries — startled the researchers.
“I was blown away,” said Dr. Atul Gawande, a Harvard surgeon and medical journalist who led the study, published in Thursday’s New England Journal of Medicine.
U.S. hospitals have been required since 2004 to take some of these precautions. But the 19-item checklist used in the study was far more detailed than what is required or what many institutions do.
The researchers estimated that implementing the longer checklist in all U.S. operating rooms would save at least $15 billion a year.
The checklist was developed by the World Health Organization and includes measures such as these:
- Before the patient is given anesthesia, make sure the part of the body to be operated on is marked, and make sure everyone on the surgical team knows if the patient has an allergy.
- Before the surgeons cut, make sure everyone in the operating room knows one another and what their roles will be during the operation, and confirm that all the needed X-rays and scan images are in the room.
- After surgery, check that all the needles, sponges and instruments are accounted for.