You have probably read a story in your local newspaper about a medical malpractice lawsuit where the patient’s doctor operated on the wrong leg…the wrong arm…the wrong level of the spine, even the wrong patient.

To address this preventable problem, the Joint Commission, the national organization which accredits the nation’s hospitals issued guidelines back in 1998.

And how are American hospitals and doctors doing in reducing wrong site surgery? Not very good…I would give them a “C-” if I had to grade their efforts.

Some researchers and patient safety experts say the problem of wrong-site surgery has not improved and may be getting worse. Joint Commission officials estimate that wrong-site surgery occurs 40 times a week in U.S. hospitals and clinics. Last year 93 cases were reported to the accrediting organization, compared with 49 in 2004.

Reporting to the commission is voluntary and confidential — to encourage doctors and hospitals to come forward and to make improvements, officials say. About half the states, including Virginia (my home state), do not require reporting.

My Take: There has been little improvement in the rates of wrong-site surgery and this reality is unacceptable.

Dan Frith
Dan Frith

Dan Frith has over 25 years of experience representing individuals and families in cases of medical malpractice throughout Virginia. He has been named "Best Medical Malpractice Attorney" by Roanoker Magazine and is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum. To speak with Dan, contact him by email at dfrith@frithlawfirm.com.