Simple Checklist Helps Prevent Deaths and Complications after Surgery

by John McKiggan

The New England Journal of Medicine has published a study showing that using a simple checklist helped decrease the number of surgery related deaths by more than 40%. The research showed that major complications after surgery fell by almost 1/3.

Using a Checklist

The checklist required the operating team to review a list of questions which included:

1. Were proper antibiotics given;
2. Was the correct patient on the operating table;
3. Was the correct surgical site identified;
4. Was sufficient anesthesia and blood supply available;
5. Did the patient have any allergies;
6. Counting needles/sponges to make sure nothing was left inside the patient.

Staggering Results

The results of the checklist were, to use the words of one of the researchers, “staggering”. Dr Bryce Taylor, a doctor at one of the Canadian hospitals that participated in the study, told The Globe and Mail:

“I would not undergo surgery, unless I knew the checklist was being done.”

Just Common Sense?

I think most of us would say that making sure you operate on the right patient is just common sense. Why do you need a checklist for that?

Unfortunately, common sense is something that is often lacking in our overburdened hospitals that are under staffed by overworked doctors and nurses.

Common sense sometimes gives way to:

“I thought he/she was responsible for that”.

An Example

Case in point, I’m representing a lady who had bowel surgery. After the surgery she complained for almost 2 years of excruciating pain. Her surgeon told her the pain was “normal” and that it would get better.

When the pain became worse her complaints were labeled as “attention seeking”. That is until her family doctor noticed a piece of surgical gauze sticking out of her surgical wound.

My client eventually had to have a second round of surgery to remove 4 feet of her bowel because 6 feet of surgical gauze had become embedded into her body.

The claim was made against the doctor that performed the surgery and the nurses that assisted the doctor in the O.R.

It’s The Other Person’s Fault!

The surgeon’s defence: “I thought the nurses had counted all the surgical gauze”.

The nurses’ defence: “The doctor was responsible for ensuring that he took everything out of the patient before he closed her up”.

No matter how simple using a checklist may be, I applaud any effort that can so dramatically reduce post operative deaths or major surgical complications.

Now we just need a checklist to make sure everyone uses the checklist.

If you are looking for a Nova Scotia Medical Malpractice Lawyer you can contact me for a free copy of my book: The Consumers Guide to Medical Malpractice Claims in Canada: Why 98% of potential medical malpractice victims never receive a penny in compensation.

If you believe you or a family member believe you may have been injured as a result of medical malpractice you can contact me through this blog, or call me toll free at 1-877-423-2050.

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