Imagine going into surgery to have a damaged kidney removed, only to wake up and learn that the healthy kidney was removed instead. That is one example of a WSPE — a wrong-site procedure. There are also wrong-patient and wrong-procedure errors of which an example is a patient who is wheeled into surgery to have an appendix removed and later learns that she had a mastectomy that was meant for a patient with a similar name. These are errors that typically make viable medical malpractice claims, but in Tennessee, such a lawsuit is best navigated by an experienced personal injury attorney.
Although methods to avoid WSPEs were developed, they proved not to be the perfect solutions, such as an initiative by which surgeons were encouraged to mark the sites to be operated clearly. However, although preoperative site markings became widely used, they proved to be confusing because the protocols of different hospitals and surgical specialties varied. This led to confusion that left medical staff unsure about whether a site was marked to indicate where to operate or where not to operate.
Because many errors turned out to follow communication errors, the Joint Commission’s Universal Protocol developed a method that required medical teams to have a surgical time-out before proceeding with surgery. The aim is to get all the personnel that will be part of the surgical team to together to discuss the procedure and make sure they are all on the same page. This protocol also included surgical safety checklists. Although establishing these protocols seems to have had positive results, initial errors that could lead to WSPEs could happen even before the operating sites are marked or the preoperative time-out takes place.
If the ward staff mistook one patient for another, the surgical team might not even know that they are marking and discussing the wrong patient. Any Tennessee victim of a WSPE error need not suffer the financial and emotional consequences without taking legal action. With the support and guidance of an experienced personal injury attorney, a patient’s economic and noneconomic damages might be recovered through the civil justice system of the state.