New Yorkers in the hospital often worry about becoming a victim of medical errors and with good reason. CNN Health estimates that medical errors may be the third-leading cause of death in America. Surgical errors account for a large portion of this and may be the most frightening.
One of the most terrifying experiences occurs when people do not receive an adequate dose of anesthesia. They may then wake up during the surgery. Called anesthesia awareness, the phenomenon keeps muscles frozen while the person’s brain stays awake. It happens to one in 1,000 patients. Some patients report feeling pain, while others do not.
Another example involves a surgeon removing the wrong limb or performing the right operation on the wrong patient. Additionally, there have been instances of surgeons forgetting to remove equipment from a patient’s body after surgery. The tool then gets sued up inside the person, which may cause severe complications thereafter.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, roughly 400,000 hospitalized patients experience preventable harm. It also identified surgical errors as the main reason for malpractice claims at hospitals. Overall, medical errors cost $20 billion per year and cause the deaths of 100,000 people. Some estimates of the number are higher, such as in the CNN article.
One potential reason for errors is the superiority complex some surgeons may suffer from. They find it insulting when junior staff ask questions about the procedure or double-check the information. This accounts for a significant portion of surgery errors that could have been prevented if surgeons only took the time to listen to staff regarding biopsy results and the site of the intended surgery.