"Slip Of The Pen" Causes Wrong Surgery For 2-Year-Old Girl

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In a case that will resonate with concerned Ohio parents, an Irish surgeon delegated a procedure and simultaneously made an incorrect description of the operation in the patient’s medical record. As a consequence of this shocking oversight, the 2-year-old patient suffered a surgery on the wrong body part.

Instead of operating on the skin on the girl’s upper lip, a surgical registrar cut a piece of skin underneath her tongue. The mistake caused the girl to require another surgery. Although disturbing, this kind of error happens all too frequently.

As part of a government inquiry into the case, the surgeon’s lawyers argued that a long chain of errors actually led to the mistaken surgery. According to those lawyers, the surgeon’s mistake-filled notation in the record was a minor problem that did not constitute sloppy work.

Medical malpractice cases often involve communication errors. A number of factors can lead to communication problems. These factors can include disconnects between physicians when transferring patients, inaccurate or misread patient files, poor communication among other staff, or even time constraints. Problems can also occur when a patient undergoes multiple procedures by different physicians during a single operation.

In another line of work, such mistakes might be relatively harmless and therefore excusable. But when a medical professional fails to communicate adequate information to other caregivers, the results can be catastrophic for patients. Sloppy medical mistakes are unacceptable.

Source: Independent, “Surgeon blames hospital staff error for girl getting wrong op,” Louise Hogan, Oct. 2, 2012

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