Talk to a lawyer today at

Talk to a lawyer today at 541-359-4331

Dedicated To Protecting What Matters Most

  1. Home
  2.  – 
  3. Surgical Errors
  4.  – When surgeons operate on the wrong body part or patient

When surgeons operate on the wrong body part or patient


When Oregon patients head into surgery, they expect their surgeon to complete the procedure properly. However, there are instances where surgeons operate on the incorrect side of the body, complete the wrong procedure or perform an operation that was intended for someone else.

There have been many attempts to prevent these types of surgical errors. For example, the “sign your site” initiative involved marking the site that needed to be operated on. However, this practice was soon found to be problematic as adherence to the protocol differed across different specialties. In some cases, there was confusion over whether the marked site indicated where the surgery should be done or if that area should be avoided.

Poor communication is also thought to cause surgical errors. To avoid them, surgical timeouts were planned. These timeouts occur before the procedure begins so that the type of procedure and important aspects can be reviewed with all of the personnel involved. Under the Universal Protocol, timeouts are required for any procedure that is considered to be invasive. Even though adherence to timeouts and other protocols have improved, errors can still happen. In fact, some errors happen before the patient even enters the operating room.

Preventing a fatal surgical error involves teamwork, a strong safety culture and vigilance. Regardless, mistakes can still happen. If a fatal surgical mistake does occur, the family members may have the grounds to file a medical malpractice claim against the surgeon and hospital where the mistake occurred. An attorney may assist the family with gathering evidence that shows that the surgery was not done properly, was done on the wrong body part or the patient was given the wrong procedure. Depending on the circumstances, the evidence may include expert witness testimony.