Our client, a 72-year-old California man, has sued his doctor and hospital for unspecified damages, claiming that surgeons mistakenly removed his healthy left kidney rather than his right kidney, which harbored a potentially cancerous mass. Hospital officials deny responsibility. Our client claims that he is a victim of a wrong-site surgery, which may include operations on the wrong side of the body, the wrong type of organ or the wrong patient.

According to the Joint Commission, which certifies medical facilities, approximately 908 wrong-site surgeries have been reported since 1995. They are the most frequent sentinel event, and often occur during orthopedic, urologic and neurosurgical procedures. The organization found that risks of wrong-site surgeries increased when more than one surgeon is involved in the case, more than one procedure is undertaken during a single hospital stay, or when a patient has a deformity or other physical abnormality that changes standard protocols.

Prevention of Wrong-Site Surgery

Hospitals realize the key to prevention is thorough and appropriate communication among the hospital team and between the doctors and the patients' families. To help avoid wrong-site surgeries, the American Medical Association and many other prominent medical groups encourage hospitals to adopt the pre-surgery universal protocol. This includes verification of identity and the surgery site, marking the correct site, and going through a pre-operative checklist. Patients should confirm and discuss the procedure with the doctor and insist on the use of the universal protocol in the holding area while they are still alert.

In his recent book, "The Checklist Manifesto," Dr. Atul Gawande offers another simple protocol for hospitals to follow before and during every procedure. In worldwide tests of such checklists, there were 36 percent fewer major complications in hospitals, 47 percent fewer deaths.

In the case of our 72-year-old client, the Hospital had a pre-surgery check list in place, however our client claims that they did not utilize it appropriately. Situations such as this one could serve as the impetus for hospitals to adopt pre-surgery procedures that are aimed at reducing and eliminating wrong-site surgeries.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of a wrong-site surgery, contact an experienced attorney immediately.