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article imageOp-Ed: The fear of surgery — Surgical errors

By Donald Quinn     Oct 2, 2012 in Health
Surgical errors have become far too common in hospitals today. With everything from operating on the wrong person, to infecting a healthy patient with non-sterile equipment, it is hard to trust our medical professionals in such an unstable environment.
It is horrifying to say the least, and anyone who thinks otherwise needs to get their head examined. When I started writing blogs for law firms, and others, I never assumed that they would cause me to look into things that would otherwise have remained a perpetual mystery to me. Nor did I imagine that the research would lead me to some very dark places, scary conclusions, and a complete distrust of the entire medical profession as a whole.
Don’t get me wrong, I have often been extremely concerned by the lack of patient care that seems to take place in American hospitals and am a firm advocate that if you must be in a hospital by no means should you ever do it alone. The “turn over” mentality has never appealed to me either, where it seems like doctors are more concerned with how quickly they can empty a bed to be filled with another patient than they are with actually curing the ills of the patients. Never mind that we have staff that are so tired, or stressed out, or simply not giving a hoot that one of the most common mistakes in hospitals is giving the patient the wrong medicine, at the wrong time, or simply the wrong dose. And let’s not even begin to talk about the so called administrators, who seem to have forgotten that they are dealing with patients and often stressed out relatives. Apparently the mood of your administrator has far more to bear on the subject than yours does, even if you happen to have been wheeled in on a stretcher.
According to the lawyers at Salvi, Schostok, and Pritchard “We live in a world of quick fix medicine where the primary aim of every hospital seems to be that patients get in and out with the least possible fuss and the most efficiency. This is done under the guise of providing the most ideal recovery conditions for patients but primarily is because the faster patients can be turned over the more revenue a hospital can generate”
They test you for everything, and apparently the test results don’t really mean anything. You are talked to like an imbecilic, like getting sick or hurt is somehow making you in to less than a competent adult. Think I am being too harsh? Next time you are at the doctor’s office or in the hospital check out the “smiley face” chart that helps you explain your level of pain to the doctor on a numeric scale similar to the one used by pediatricians. Strangely it is not the patients that are having issues, but the hospitals and doctors. Over the last few weeks I have found that the most common surgical areas are found in four distinct areas. These are all frightening and need to be addressed by legislation, additional training, and a public awareness campaign.
Operating on the wrong patient: This occurs when the wrong patient is wheeled into the operating room and a surgery is performed on him or her that he or she did not need. This is extremely traumatic to the patient who now has to suffer the consequences of non-required surgery, the recovery period after the surgery, and all the complications that go into having had an unessential surgical procedure. Simultaneously the person who needed the surgery has not undergone their required procedure and is still waiting for the doctors to catch their mistake.
Operating on the wrong area: occurs when a patient's surgery is performed on the wrong body part or organ -- there are a fair number of instances in which patients had the wrong limb amputated.
Using non-sterile and hence contaminated equipment: Reusable medical devices may retain tissue and other debris even when the cleaning procedures recommended by the manufactures are followed. This puts patients at risk for serious and possibly life-threatening infections, according to a report from iWatch News. The complexity of the surgical instruments and the designs are partially to blame. Another element is the speed with which the instruments need to be cleaned and returned to service. Speed does not go well with sterilization, often resulting in an incomplete or half-baked job of cleaning critical equipment, used during surgery.
Damaging other parts of the body while performing surgery: Surgery, by its nature of being invasive, has an inherent risk of causing damage to healthy tissue and organs around the site of the surgery. This is a well-known risk which surgeons attempt to mitigate by being extremely careful with scalpels, scissors, and laser technology. However, when surgeons are overworked or tired, with the same being true for their staff, and under a deadline to “turn” patients quickly it is more likely that this kind of damage can occur.
These challenges are not limited to the private sector alone. Last year a scandal broke out and found its way to the halls of Congress when it was discovered that the Veterans Administration was using potentially tainted equipment, exposing over 10,000 patients potentially to HIV, hepatitis and other infections. Despite a large scale investigation and ongoing surprise inspection by the Inspector General of the VA, few than half the facilities improved their sterilization procedures leading House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Filner, D-California to say this
"You would certainly think that after the initial discoveries and the directive from the VA that medical directors would make sure that all of their equipment and procedures were brought into line, and yet this investigation shows that many, many did not,"
Part of the problem is the large degree of non-medicine related stress faced by doctors today, including legal challenges and insurance costs. However, none of this can detract from the fact that our hospitals are rapidly turning to the fast food mentality, which is healthy for no one and does us absolutely no good. Perhaps the time has come for the public to raise its awareness of the going’s on within the sacred halls of healing, raising an outcry when we find that our faith in the medical system is unfounded or that there are those who take our faith for granted.
A great man once said “We must all hang together or assuredly we will all hang separately”. (Benjamin Franklin, at the signing of the declaration of Independence)
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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