|Scott Baker, MD|
Is it possible to legislate away human error? It would appear not. Despite the best intentions of hundreds of bureaucratic agencies and thousands of rules governing every conceivable aspect of medical practice, plain old human error still rears its ugly head to make sensational news headlines about the latest grievous injury to a patient.
Last week, an Iowa woman sued her surgeon, Dr. Scott Baker of Sioux Falls, SD for removing the wrong body part. In 2016, Dena Knapp of Iowa was supposed to have an adrenal mass removed by Dr. Baker. Instead, the surgeon was notified by the pathology department afterwards that he had removed a kidney, not the adrenal. To make matters worse, Ms. Knapp states that the surgeon lied to her about the mistake and claimed he did not get all of the mass and needed a second operation, never informing her that he had accidentally removed a healthy kidney. She went to the Mayo Clinic for her second operation. Now she claims that her one remaining kidney is starting to fail and she is suffering from severe mental distress and pain.
|Can you see the difference between the adrenals and the kidney?|
So that begets the question, where was the rest of the OR staff when the kidney was being removed? Did the nurse or the surgical tech, who would have been right there to document the specimen being removed from the patient, not notice that they were being handed a kidney and not an adrenal? Was the surgeon's assistant not confident enough to tell Dr. Baker that he was resecting the wrong organ?
For that matter, what about the anesthesiologist in the case? We are an integral part of the surgical team and consider ourselves leaders in patient safety. That includes being an active participant in the Universal Time Out. Did the anesthesiologist not notice that the surgeon had removed the kidney by accident? Was anything said to the surgeon by anybody in the OR when the nephrectomy was taking place? So many unanswered questions that I'm sure will be aired out in court very soon.
This is just the latest medical malpractice case to make headlines since the practice of Universal Protocol was conceived in 2004. No matter how many rules are enacted, the best protection for the patient is one of the simplest--stay vigilant.