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Boston Medical Malpractice?: Three Wrong-Site Surgeries Performed at Beth Israel

Health officials say that during three unrelated spinal surgeries, surgeons at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center operated on the wrong vertebrae of each patient. According to the hospital’s health care quality senior vice president Dr. Kenneth Sands, each Boston wrong-site surgery (the first one occurred last September) involved surgeons who miscounted the vertebrae and instead operated on the one above or below the segment that was diseased. Two of the botched spinal operations were conducted by the same doctor.

Sands says that although human mistakes caused the Boston surgical errors, the surgeons involved did follow standard procedures, including taking a “time out” to confirm what type of surgery was to be performed and on what body part. The medical mistakes occurred even though the teaching hospital had taken preventive steps.

The medical errors were detected in post surgical X-rays. While one person’s back pain got better despite the wrong-site surgery, two patients had to undergo second surgeries. The Boston medical malpractice attorney for one of the patients says that his client, a 37-year-old female, now suffers from limited mobility and continues to experience pain.

Massachusetts and federal health inspectors have since cited Beth Israel Deaconess for problems with its surgical service. The hospital says that since these three Boston wrong-site spinal surgeries, it has already made improvements, such as adopting a checklist to help surgeons mark the right vertebrae and hiring an outside expert to assess the hospital’s spinal surgery procedures.

Spinal surgeries can lead to serious injuries and complications, including disability, chronic back pain, nerve damage, dural tear, infection, bleeding, incontinence, and permanent disability. Patients that have sustained injuries because a surgeon or another medical professional was negligent may have grounds for a Boston medical malpractice lawsuit.

Beth Israel erred in 3 spinal operations, Boston.com, December 24, 2010
One Hospital: Three Wrong-Site Surgeries in Four Months, JDSupra

Related Web Resources:
Wrong-Site and Wrong-Patient Procedures in the Universal Protocol Era, Archives of Surgery
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Medical Malpractice, Nolo
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