January 13, 2012

Of all of the medical malpractice claims filed throughout the United States each year, it continues to astound us that surgeons are still being sued for medical malpractice based on claims that they operated on the wrong body part.

The simplest surgical decision occurs at the beginning of the operation: should I operate on the right side or on the left side of the patient?

Modern hospital protocols call for a formal “time out” in the operating room before the surgery starts, during which all of the operating room personnel stop what they are doing and confirm with one another the patient’s identification, the operative procedure to be performed, and the body part to be operated on (for example, “this is John Smith, date of birth xxxx, we are performing an ACL repair, and the surgery is on his left shoulder”). Hospitals also require that the surgical site be marked by using initials, the word “Yes,” or by a line representing the proposed incision — no other marks are allowed on the patient’s body (nonetheless, one doctor undergoing his own surgery reported that he wrote “wrong side” on one leg so that his surgeon would know that his surgery was to be performed on his other leg).

Maryland Wrong Knee Surgery

A Maryland medical malpractice lawyer was recently surprised to learn that the defendant orthopedic surgeon in a wrongful death medical malpractice case was sued just one year earlier for operating on another patient’s wrong knee (the defendant orthopedic surgeon arrogantly testified during his deposition that the patient’s “good knee” was found to have a condition that would have required surgery in the future anyway).

Las Vegas Wrong Knee Surgery

In Las Vegas, Nevada, a 54-year-old man was scheduled to have surgery on his right knee to clean out some cartilage. When he awoke after the surgery, he was surprised (and dismayed) to find that the bandages were placed on his left knee. His surgeon evidently realized shortly after the surgery that he had operated on the man’s wrong knee (the same surgeon had operated on the man’s left knee the previous year) and asked his patient, who was still under the effects of anesthesia from the original surgery, if he wanted surgery on his right (correct) knee at that time, to which the man responded, “Sure, why not?”  The surgeon then operated on his right knee.

Adding insult to injury, the surgeon and anesthesiologist joked that the man received two surgeries for the price of one (all joking aside, the surgeon had the audacity to bill his patient’s health insurance company for both surgeries!).

As a result of the two knee surgeries done at the same time (one of which was unnecessary), the man had to use a walker and was out of work for almost two months. And his recovery time from the surgery was twice as long. The man filed a medical malpractice claim against both his surgeon and the hospital, which blamed each other for the “mistake.”


Even though it seems clear that operating on the wrong side of the body is medical malpractice, some negligent surgeons and the hospitals where the wrong site surgeries occurred still fight the medical malpractice claims as well as question the value of the unnecessary injuries caused to the innocent victims of the medical negligence.

If you or a loved one have been victimized by surgery performed on the wrong side or at the wrong site on your body, you should seek legal advice from a medical malpractice attorney at once.

Click here  to be forwarded to our website to be connected with medical malpractice lawyers in your state who may be willing and able to investigate your medical malpractice claim and file a medical malpractice case on your behalf, if appropriate.

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