Doctors and Nurses Using a Checklist Before and During Surgery Should Help Prevent Surgical Mistakes and Errors

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Safe surgery checklists - reminders to all doctors and nurses in the operating room before and during a surgical procedure - are intended to reduce and prevent mistakes during surgery, including serious surgical and anesthesia complications and death.

There are three critical time periods that have been identified around the time of surgery:

  1. Right before anesthesia is administered
  2. Right before the incision
  3. During the incision closure

Safe Surgery Checklists can include several safety steps that are easy for doctors and nurses to implement, such as:

  • Confirming the patient's identity
  • Marking the surgical site
  • Checking anesthesia machines and medications
  • Confirming the surgical procedure and incision site
  • Counting all of the surgical instruments and sponges

These are just the basics for safe surgery.  Many health care organizations have published their own recommended safe surgery checklists.

How could a surgical mistake like operating at the wrong surgical site ever happen?  It has happened to people we've represented, and and we have seen cases where doctors were in a rush and didn't stop to thoroughly review a safe surgery checklist, or didn't take an appropriate surgical "time out" to make sure they were performing the right operation on the right person and the right body part.

To get answers to your questions about surgical and medical mistakes in a hospital in D.C., Maryland or Virginia, call us at (202) 393 - 3320 for more information on holding healthcare providers accountable for harms they cause to patients when they don't follow established safety rules.


Frank R. Kearney, Attorney-at-Law
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Experienced DC Workers' Comp, Long Term Disability & Accident Lawyer