When a surgical procedure is necessary, a common fear for people in Boston and throughout the nation is that there will be a mistake made. Surgical errors that can lead to serious injury and even death are too common. The statistics for the number of incidents in which there are surgical errors is disturbingly high. Nevertheless, there are steps that patients can take beforehand to try and ensure that their procedure will be as safe as possible.

Some strategies that patients can follow include requesting the consent form long before the surgery so the dangers of the procedure are known and questions can be asked and learning about the policy for visitors at the hospital; discussing the possibility of surgical errors. Also, if the procedure doesn’t need to be completed immediately, it’s acceptable to shop around for the doctor or hospital that has a good safety record. Learning about the doctor and staff who will be performing the surgery to try and staying clear of professionals with a track record for negligence is also a good idea.

Every year, approximately 440,000 people across the country die because of mistakes made while in the hospital. This number surpasses the number of people who die in auto accidents each year. It also surpasses the number of people who die due to cancer or heart disease. In many instances, the families of those who died aren’t even aware of what happened.

Even the most conscientious patient can be subject to serious injury or death because of surgical equipment left inside a patient and other egregious mistakes. No congressional or legislative proposal will eliminate these errors entirely. When the worst happens, it’s important that the person who was hurt or the family of those who died know how to move forward with possible litigation. They should consider getting the assistance of a legal professional experienced in surgical errors.

Source: Consumer Reports, “6 insider tips for safer surgery,” accessed on Dec. 1, 2014