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How often do doctors make careless errors? According to a study published in Surgery on December 19, courtesy of LiveScience.com, instances of leaving supplies or instruments in patients, operating on the wrong individual, or operating on the wrong body part are more common than you think.

The study assessed malpractice records in the U.S. for these instances and found the following:
• Supplies or instruments, from cotton balls to scalpels, are left inside patients during surgical procedures at an average rate of 39 times per week.
• The instances of operating on the wrong patient and operating on the wrong body part both occur at 20 times per week on average.

However, because these figures are based on lawsuits rather than reported cases, the amounts are considered to be underestimates.

The errors, the study further claims, are not the direct result of negligence. Instead, common instances and factors are more likely to result in an error. For instance, it is indicated, doctors have a greater chance of leaving a supply or instrument if the patient is obese, when more than one care team are working on a patient, when the doctor feels rushed, or when nurses feel as if they cannot point out errors. Proposed solutions, they point out, are changing the hospital’s culture to encourage safety, adding RFID chips to detect equipment better, and to force hospitals to report all error, regardless of medical malpractice lawsuits.

But, the surprisingly-high rates of medical malpractice are the other side of growing lawsuits. OnyxMD.com, a physician staffing source, found that medical malpractice lawsuits are increasingly part of practicing medicine, regardless of specialty. Although some fields experience more, one lawsuit is filed for every five physicians yearly on average; this amount increases to one for every 2.5 obstetricians, neurosurgeons, and orthopedists. Additionally, 40 percent of all doctors will face at least one medical malpractice claim during the course of their careers.