What are WSPEs and what can patients, doctors do about them?

Having surgery can be a frightening experience for anyone, whether they are undergoing elective, cosmetic surgery or surgery that can save their lives. Every surgical procedure comes with some risk, and there is no guarantee that an operation will be free of complications.

As such, it is crucial that doctors thoroughly explain the risks to patients and comply with accepted surgical guidelines, as these basic measures can make the difference between success and failure. Unfortunately, this doesn't always happen.

Recently, for instance, a man was successful in his medical malpractice lawsuit against a doctor who removed the wrong testicle after an injury caused permanent damage to his other one. The courts awarded the man $870,000, which included $250,000 in punitive damages.

This is a case of "wrong-site, wrong-procedure, wrong-patient errors", or WSPEs, and they are never supposed to happen in the medical community because of how preventable they are.

Preventing these types of errors is often done through measures like marking the site for incision with a doctor's initials, confirming surgical sites with another party and complying with strict protocols for identifying patients and procedures. Sometimes, patients mark a body part themselves with the doctor before going into surgery. Hospital staff present for the operation, including nurses, should also speak up if there are concerns.

WSPEs are devastating, though they are uncommon. In fact, one analysis showed in over 3 million operations over the course of almost twenty years, there were just 1 in 112,994 cases of wrong-site surgeries.

That said, even one occurrence is too much when it comes to such egregious mistakes. Should an error still occur, victims may have grounds to file a malpractice claim against the doctor and/or hospital.

In cases involving a WSPE incident, it is crucial for all parties to understand the importance of legal guidance. These are often complicated, contentious and emotional issues, and having the help of an attorney can be critical.

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