A Massachusetts hospital made so many mistakes in patient treatment, it faces suspension from the federal Medicare program. Since 2011, there have been at least 14 instances at hospitals in the state when caregivers performed a procedure on the wrong patient, including surgery to mistakenly remove a healthy kidney.
State investigators reviewing cases at Massachusetts hospitals, including UMass Memorial Medical Center and Saint Vincent Hospital, found many of the errors were due to improper patient identification. In at least 10 of the 14 cases, caregivers failed to follow a basic protocol -- using two pieces of information to identify each patient, such as full name and birth date, according to an investigation by The Boston Globe newspaper. State health investigators found five recent patient identification mistakes at UMass Memorial and four at Saint Vincent.
Experts say procedures performed on the wrong patients is fairly rare, however patient identification errors that can lead to harmful mistakes are more common. Yet, if these errors are caught before a patient is harmed, they do not usually get reported, making it difficult for investigators to determine exactly how frequently such incidents occur.
The newspaper began investigating medical mistakes after a surgeon at Saint Vincent unnecessarily removed a patient's kidney over the summer. The surgeon confirmed the presence of a large tumor on a CT scan, which provides a more detailed view than an X-ray image, but the scan he looked at was for another patient with the same name. The surgeon failed to use a second identifier, such as the patient's birth date, to determine he was operating on the right person. The federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services gave the hospital until mid-December to put protocols in place to prevent this kind of mix-up, otherwise the hospital will lose its Medicare funding.
A study released in May by Johns Hopkins Medicine shows that medical error is the third leading cause of death in the United States. Based on the analysis of medical death data over an eight-year period, patient safety experts calculate that a quarter million deaths a year in the U.S. can be attributed to medical error.
In addition to the unnecessary surgery to remove a healthy kidney, investigators in Massachusetts found that other procedures performed on the wrong patients included: catheterizations, endoscopies, biopsies, nasal scoping, eye surgery, radiation therapy and a urological procedure.
If you have been harmed as a result of a medical error, or if a loved one has died, you may be entitled to compensation. Call the offices of trial attorneys Charles Gilman and Briggs Bedigian at 800-529-6162 or contact them online. The firm handles cases in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.