Did your doctor commit a “wrong-site error”?

You rely on the expertise of your health care provider to give you the correct treatment for your condition. Unfortunately, mistakes can happen in the medical field just like any other profession. Johns Hopkins researchers report that medical errors cause upwards of 250,000 deaths each year. One alarming error that can occur in medical settings is a “wrong-site error.”

But what exactly does this mean, and how does it affect patients?

Understanding the wrong-site error

A wrong-site error means a medical professional performed a procedure on the wrong area. For instance, if you required surgery on your left knee, but the doctor operated on your right knee, that is a wrong-site error. Other examples include operating on the wrong finger, removing the wrong organ or even performing a procedure meant for another patient altogether.

Potential consequences of the error

The implications of such errors can be severe. Beyond the physical harm and the need for corrective procedures, discovering that a trusted medical professional made such a grave error can lead to feelings of betrayal, anxiety and fear of future medical treatments.

Preventing wrong-site errors

If you have an upcoming surgery or medical procedure, you can take proactive steps to minimize the chances of a wrong-site error. Here are some suggestions:

  • Engage in open communication. Before the procedure, make sure you, your doctor and the entire medical team are on the same page regarding the specifics of your treatment.
  • Verify the surgical site. Most hospitals have protocols that mark the surgical site with a non-permanent marker. Ensure this step takes place and confirm the marking is correct.
  • Ask questions. Do not hesitate to ask your medical team questions if you feel uncertain or need clarification about any aspect of your treatment.

While medical professionals typically strive to offer the best care, mistakes like wrong-site errors can occur. Staying informed and proactive can help you avoid becoming the recipient of such mistakes. Remember, you have the right to fully understand every aspect of your medical treatment. Do not shy away from speaking up and seeking the clarity you deserve.

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