Lost and Found: Surgeons Still Leave Items in Patients


surgeryHow’d that get in there?

An alarming number of surgeons are still leaving items inside patients’ bodies after procedures, according to a new study from Johns Hopkins. Looking at malpractice claims from 1990 to 2010, they found that these “never events”-the phrase used to describe this error, because it should never happen-actually occur at least 4,082 times per year.

Deaths were reported in 6.6 percent of the patients, while 32.9 percent claimed permanent injury.

More traumatizing facts: Every week 39 foreign objects are left behind in bodies, 20 procedures are performed on the wrong patient, and another 20 procedures performed are entirely wrong to begin with. Read more at The Atlantic.

{Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. There should be a complete separation between tasks that require a sharp brain and a decision-making process (under tremendous pressure and time constraints) and tasks which do not require intelligence, skill or expertise, but nevertheless where a mistake can be problematic (ie unneeded procedures to remove the object), or worse. The latter tasks should be automated and/or removed from the surgeons’ responsibilities. Introducing checklists, similar to those that airplane pilots use, has already been a very valuable first step, many more are possible.

  2. What’s missng from the numbers is the TOTAL number of procedures performed. According to the Centers for Disease Control (http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/insurg.htm), 48 million inpatient surgeries are done in the US annually. That’s around 131,500 daily, or around 920,500 weekly.

    To put that in perspective, for example, “Every week 39 foreign objects are left behind in bodies”. That is a 0.004% error rate, which is spectacularly SMALL.

    And the total 4082 annual “never happen” events corresponds to a 0.009% failure rate, which is also spectacularly small.

    In Halacha, this is even way beyond the concept of “milsa d’lo shechicha”.

    Nothing is perfect except Hashem.

  3. the worst is when (lo aleinu) a amputation is needed on 1 leg and they do it on the other. then they need to return and do it to the one that first had to be amputated. that can just ruin s/o life.

  4. Does anyone know what happens to the doctors that do these things? Are they allowed to continue to practice? Anyone who knows, please answer.


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