More information is being released about mismanagement and poor care at Veterans Administration hospitals all over the country, including the one in Columbia, South Carolina. What some have claimed to be a successful model of socialized medicine may actually have long wait lists for general care and procedures, delays that may have even led to wrongful death.
The use of surgical robots in South Carolina hospitals has increased over the years as doctors have discovered that the devices allow them to be more precise and make fewer incisions than with conventional surgical procedures. The publication of a study linking malfunctions of the devices to surgical errors has raised concerns about the safety of robotic surgery.
South Carolina patients undergoing surgery may be interested in a recent urgent medical device recall issued by Intuitive Surgical, Inc., the manufacturer of the da Vinci robotic surgery system. Reportedly, the da Vinci's instrument arms can stall briefly due to friction within the arm. The machine can then move quickly in an effort to correct its position when resistance is overcome. The recall covers nearly 1,400 units around the world.
Patients and physicians in South Carolina might take a lesson from a case involving misdiagnosis of death and an aborted organ removal. In 2009, a woman woke on the operating table in another state just prior to an organ donation. The woman had been diagnosed with irreversible brain damage and taken off life support with the consent of her family. They also provided consent for the organ harvest procedure. According to a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report later brought to light, the woman "did not have irreversible brain damage [and] did not meet criteria for withdrawal of care."
A study of gall bladder surgeries at a large hospital in a major U.S. city performed over an 8-month stretch identified 22 patients with a total of 35 complications. Eighteen of the 22 were undergoing emergency surgery. More than 90 percent of night-time procedures were emergencies. Surgeries after 7 p.m. and those on older male patients were linked to increased risk of complications.
As some South Carolina readers may be aware, robotic surgery has been steadily growing in popularity. As the number of robotic surgeries increases, so does the potential for surgical errors, according to some critics. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has received reports of problems with several different types of robotic surgeries, including cuts, infections and burns. There have been 89 deaths reported since 2007.
South Carolina individuals who are considering cosmetic surgery may be interested in the case of an Oklahoma man who is suing for a nose job nightmare. A 35-year-old man is seeking damages against his surgeon for an unknown amount after numerous surgical errors caused his nose to become deformed.
There are many legitimate reasons that patients fear the operating room. The risk of contracting a post-operative infection, the risk of reacting to anesthesia and the risk of a challenging diagnosis can be daunting. However, risks that patients should not be subjected to are those of leave-in surgical errors. Tragically, more than one dozen patients are subjected to leave-in surgical errors on a daily basis nationwide. When sponges, towels and other surgical tools are left inside patient bodies, the outcome can be catastrophic.
South Carolina residents have probably heard horror stories about surgeons operating on the wrong patient or body part. Seven years ago, mandatory rules were enacted in order to help prevent wrong-site surgeries. However, current data indicates that this problem has not yet been solved. Wrong-site surgeries occur every week in U.S. hospitals and clinics. In 2010, 93 cases were reported.
One mistake can lead to another. This statement is generally true in a wide variety of human events. And recent research shows how it is particularly true with medical malpractice.