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Foreign objects left behind common surgical error

Medical malpractice is a broad category of professional misconduct that occurs when a physician or other medical professional commits a negligent act that results in damage or harm to the patient. One particular type of medical malpractice involves mishaps that occur during surgery. Maryland residents may find the following information about medical malpractice liability, surgical errors and a recent report on retained foreign objects interesting.

The Joint Commission, a nonprofit healthcare watchdog group, recently released a report warning of the high risks associated with retained foreign objects. According to the report, the Joint Commission received nearly 800 reports of such surgical errors between 2005 and 2012. While this may sound like a large number of errors, reporting to the Joint Commission is voluntary and only represents a very small fraction of actual events.

Among the events reported to the Commission, 16 of the cases resulted in death. Furthermore, nearly 95 percent of these events resulted in patients requiring additional care or extended hospital stays. The study also noted that surgical operations performed on an emergency basis were nine times more likely to result in a retained object, while such incidents were four times more likely if a procedure changed unexpectedly.

The retention of a foreign object after an invasive medical procedure is a serious event. Depending on the type of object left behind and the length of the time the object remains inside the patient's body, a patient can suffer serious pain and suffering. Some such surgical errors can even be life-threatening. If a patient is injured or harmed due to a retained foreign object or other surgical error, they may be able to obtain monetary damages to help them with their physical recovery.

Source: CBS News, "Nearly 800 surgical tools left in patients since 2005: Report," Ryan Jaslow, Oct. 18, 2013

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