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How Common Are Wrong-Site, Wrong-Procedure, Wrong-Patient Errors? Insights from a Medical Malpractice Attorney in New Orleans

June 1st, 2017

How Common Are Wrong-Site, Wrong-Procedure, Wrong-Patient Errors? Insights from a Medical Malpractice Attorney in New Orleans

On behalf of David Bowling of The Bowling Law Firm, A Professional Law Corporation posted in Medical Malpractice on Thursday, June 1, 2017.

The idea that a surgeon might operate on the wrong side of the body–or the wrong patient altogether–is enough to make anyone cringe. Unfortunately, wrong-site, wrong-procedure, wrong-patient errors (WSPEs) happen more often than most people realize, and the fact that they happen at all highlights a fundamental problem in the healthcare industry.


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Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality refers to WSPEs as “never events,” which means there are no circumstances under which they should ever occur. Although researchers have estimated that WSPEs only occur in 1 out of 112,000 surgical procedures, a 2008 review revealed that healthcare providers may be reporting just 10 percent of such errors.

If you think you were the victim of a WSPE and you incurred damages as a result, turn to The Bowling Law Firm. David A. Bowling is a medical malpractice attorney in New Orleans who will help you file a claim and pursue the maximum compensation for medical bills, rehabilitation costs, lost income, and non-economic damages. Call (504) 586-5200 to schedule a consultation.

How Common Are WSPEs?

According to , surgeons around the country make up to 2,700 wrong-site, wrong-procedure, wrong patient errors annually, which works out to approximately seven WSPEs per day. also reports that in a six-year study into the prevalence of surgical errors, researchers found WSPEs made up 0.5 percent of all medical errors that they analyzed.

Various studies have indicated that poor communication among the surgical team increases the risk of a WSPE. In 2004, The Joint Commission devised a Universal Protocol for improving communication in the operating room and preventing wrong-site, wrong-procedure, wrong-patient errors.

The protocol calls for a “time-out” prior to operating in order to review any critical components of the procedure with all members of the surgical team. These time-outs improve teamwork and overall communication in the operating room.

How Can I Reduce the Risk of a Surgical Error?

Despite the Universal Protocol, surgical errors still occur, and patients need to serve as their own healthcare advocate in order to reduce the risk of medical malpractice. For example, you should always speak to the surgeon directly before undergoing any kind of invasive procedure.

Talk about the specifics of the operation to ensure you and the surgeon are on the same page. Make sure you do so before your provider gives you anesthesia or preps you for surgery.

You should also discuss the procedure with any other healthcare providers whom you interact with on the day of your operation including nurses and anesthesiologists; however, do not let nurses or anyone else mark the surgical site. Insist that only your surgeon marks the incision site with a permanent marker to reduce the risk of a miscommunication in the operating room.

Sadly, you can take all of the precautions possible and still fall victim to a WSPE. If you sustained debilitating injuries due to a botched surgical procedure, contact The Bowling Law Firm.

David A. Bowling is a medical malpractice lawyer in New Orleans with more than three decades of trial experience. Call (504) 586-5200 to schedule a consultation. You can learn more about malpractice claims in Louisiana by visiting

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