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Canadian province enforces safety measures after surgical error

Health officials in Canada are calling for tighter safety regulations after a major surgical error resulted in a patient mistakenly receiving a mastectomy. The health minister of Nova Scotia said the entire province will now be taking part in a new medical-error registry to help monitor medical mistakes.

Currently, hospitals and medical centers throughout the province track their own medical errors, but the new registry will combine all of the data in one place so that it’s easier to track. The health minister said that although medical errors happen at hospitals all over the world, the goal of the registry will be to reduce their negative impact on patients.

The recent surgical error in Halifax occurred when test results were mixed up between two cancer patients. One of the patients, a woman in her 60s, erroneously had one of her breasts removed while the other patient who needed the mastectomy was not scheduled for the procedure until the mix-up was discovered.

The Canadian health minister is right – one of the best ways to prevent medical errors is to make them public and learn from them. All too often, serious medical errors are swept under the rug by hospitals and doctors who don’t want to tarnish their reputations. However, patients end up paying the price.

Surgical errors like the one that occurred in Halifax are common in Canada as well as the United States, and it is about time that something is done to address them. Currently, medical malpractice lawsuits are one of the only ways to hold negligent hospitals, doctors and medical staff responsible for the injuries they have caused.

Source: CBC News, “Mastectomy mix-up prompts province-wide error registry,” Aug. 16, 2013