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Six ways to prevent wrong-site surgical malpractice

Last week we discussed the approximately 2,700 wrong-site or wrong-patient surgical malpractice incidents that occur in America every year. Although experts say that even the best doctors can make mistakes, CNN reports that there are six simple steps that patients in Boston and around the country can take to prevent wrong-site surgical malpractice.

"Patient involvement is one of the keys. It's imperative that they be proactive," said Diane Pinakiewicz, president of the National Patient Safety Foundation. Pinakiewicz also added that patients should consider themselves to be important members of the health-care team.

CNN recommends the following six steps:

1. Ask what the doctor is going to do to ensure that he or she does not operate on the wrong site. Raising the issue will hopefully make the doctor more conscious of any potential surgical errors.

2. Request a break before anesthesia is administered. A "time out" before surgery can prevent medical malpractice mistakes. All relevant members of the surgical team should stop and communicate to ensure that they are all on the same page about the procedure.

3. Make sure your name is double-checked before surgery. Make sure that everyone involved knows exactly who you are by stating your full name and birth date.

4. Actually read through the informed consent form. Don't simply sign the form because the information on the form may reveal potential errors.

5. Make sure that the doctor, and not someone else, initials your surgery site before you leave the pre-op area.

6. Trust your gut. If someone feels wrong, ask questions to reassure yourself that nothing is amiss.

Source: CNN Health, "Patients, beware of wrong-side surgeries," Sabriya Rice, 4/28/11

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