With the prices you pay at the hospital, you shouldn’t have to worry about asinine medical errors. Yet they abound. As quality medicine standard-bearer Johns Hopkins recently reported, medical errors are now the THIRD leading cause of death in the United States. The Johns Hopkins study was a follow-up to a similar report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Startlingly, medical errors kill 250,000 people per year in the United States—trailing only (1) heart disease (614,000) and (2) cancer (591,000), and ahead of (4) stroke (133,103), (5) Alzheimer’s disease (94,000), (6) diabetes (76,000), (7) flu and pneumonia (55,000), (8) kidney failure (48,000), and (9) suicide (43,000). Not a good list to be near the top of, to say the least.
Perhaps the most avoidable of all medical negligence is the Unintended Retained Foreign Object (URFO)—a euphemism for “surgeon leaves [scalpel/sponge/forceps/clamp/scissors] in patient and sews her up.” A 2013 study found that hundreds of these events occur each year, many causing death. Ninety-five percent of UFROs resulted in additional care and/or an extended hospital stay. The total costs related to a UFRO is said to be $200,000 per incident.
Thankfully, the legislature and courts have rightfully decided that URFOs are a “never event” in a hospital—an event that, if people are being reasonably careful, will never, ever happen. In that vein, under Florida law, “the discovery of the presence of a foreign body, such as a sponge, clamp, forceps, surgical needle, or other paraphernalia commonly used in surgical, examination, or diagnostic procedures, shall be prima facie evidence of negligence on the part of the health care provider.” Fla. Stat. § 766.102(b).