When you undergo surgery, you rely on the doctors and medical staff to administer not only the proper medications, but also the appropriate dosages. However, a new study has revealed some rather scary statistics: medication mistakes happen in at least half of surgeries — and possibly even more. And these errors can be the basis of a medical malpractice lawsuit.

The study, conducted during some 275 surgeries at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), is the first to measure the rates of medication errors from the time patients entered a pre-op area until they were out of surgery and in recovery or an intensive care unit.

Researchers found that medication mistakes occurred in about 50 percent of the surgeries they observed, and that one-third of the errors resulted in some type of harm to the patient. Two-thirds of the errors were categorized as “serious” and 2 percent were considered “life-threatening,” while the remaining mistakes were considered “significant.”

Other findings included:

  • The most frequently observed errors were labelling mistakes, improper dosages, documentation errors, and not treating problems showing on patients’ vital signs.
  • Medication errors were observed in one of every two procedures.
  • Nearly 80 percent of the medication mistakes were determined to be preventable.
  • Errors were more common during longer surgeries (six hours or more).
  • About 33 percent of medication mistakes led to some type of adverse event.

The study is not only concerning because of these findings, but also because MGH is a Harvard affiliate and is considered a national leader in safety. If half of patients at MGH experience medication errors, it can be presumed that error rates at other hospitals across the country are at least as high, if not higher.

Another disturbing fact is that, upon learning of the findings, doctors and medical insiders indicated they believe the actual number of medication errors is much higher than the study reported.


Richard L. Groffsky

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Richard L. Groffsky

Richard Groffsky focuses his practice on medical malpractice and personal injury litigation, and has represented victims of devastating brain injuries and birth injuries in Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, South Carolina, and Georgia in significant brain injury and birth injury cases.