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Surgical Errors

When medical students get their doctorates, they take the Hippocratic Oath. In doing so, they pledge to always help their patients, and never to harm them. This historic oath covers more ground than just that, but it’s come to be seen as synonymous with the idea that physicians have a duty to those who entrust them with their care. Unfortunately, sometimes even doctors don’t perform as they’re expected to.

What Constitutes a Surgical Error?

The term surgical error can certainly be seen in a broad light. It definitely involves a number of different types of scenarios. That being said, the most basic definition is that it represents any mistake during surgery that could have been prevented.

Obviously, no surgery is 100% safe. Even getting your wisdom teeth taken out is preempted by signing a waiver. Generally, the more intrusive the surgery, the greater the risk involved.

That being said, patients must be made aware of any and all risks prior to their surgery. Otherwise, they can’t be said to have provided “informed consent.”

Surgical errors are those that exist outside of the scope of what could be reasonably expected for a given surgery. They are the kind that shouldn’t normally be a concern where a procedure is involved.

Common Reasons for Surgical Errors

No surgery is ever going to be the same as the last. You could have the same physician performing the same surgery on the same patient and there are still going to be some differences.

Most of these errors, though, can be blamed on one of seven things, which we’ll take a look at now.


Unfortunately, some surgeons simply lack the skill for the procedure they’re undertaking. No one wants to think of surgery in terms of practice, but if a surgeon has only done something so many times, they may lack necessary experience.

Poor Preoperative Planning

Like we said, no two surgeries are going to be the same. That’s why every surgery involves a good deal of planning. Reviewing the patient’s health history, going over the specifics of the surgery itself and properly preparing the nurses and assistants are all essential steps that must take place before the procedure begins. When this doesn’t happen, things can easily go wrong.


As hard as it is to believe, yes, some surgeons will take shortcuts during a surgery. There could be a number of reasons a surgeon justifiably calls an audible while things are under way, of course. Cutting corners, though, is how errors occur.

Poor Communication

Surgery depends a lot on proper communication. From preparing the tools to getting medicine dosage right, if communication breaks down, the patient becomes at risk.


Surgeons are notorious for working long hours. In fact, most surgeries can be grueling endurance tests in themselves. The mental demands of the job can easily take a toll on a surgeon, causing them to make a mistake while operating.

Drugs and Alcohol

Surgeons, like anyone else, may find themselves turning to drugs or alcohol. Given the line of work they’re in, it’s often something they do to help cope with the stress they’re under. It goes without saying, though, that substance abuse and surgery are never a good combination.


Negligence could also be the reason why a patient suffers from surgical error. Unsanitary instruments or using equipment they know to be effective are just two examples.

If you or someone you know has suffered from surgical error, it’s important you speak to an attorney who has experience in this field. A lawsuit could result in necessary damages and the surgeon responsible being unable to hurt anyone else in the future.


  • https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/surgical-errors-medical-malpractice.html