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Make a List and Check it Twice

Such a simple idea – a surgery checklist – has proven to save lives. The Surgical Safety Checklist, a 19-item tool created by the World Health Organization (WHO), identifies what should happen before anesthesia, before an incision is made in the skin, and before a patient leaves the operating room.

A byproduct of the WHO’s Second Global Safety Challenge entitled Safe Surgery Saves Lives, this document seeks to improve the safety of surgical patients. The checklist is not a cure-all. Having a checklist certainly doesn’t guarantee all the items on the list will be completed, just like having a grocery list doesn’t mean you will buy everything on the list. In addition, checking off everything on the list doesn’t guarantee a good outcome. Mistakes may be made, and bad outcomes may occur, even if the list is followed. Still, a surgical checklist does provide a standardized and reliable method to avoid many complications, some of which can lead to death.

Items on the checklist include things such as confirming the identity of the patient and the planned site and type of procedure, confirming the sterility of surgical instruments, and making sure sponge and needle counts are correct at the end of the operation.

In a Washington Post article about the checklist, Alex Haynes, Director for the Safe Surgery Program at Ariadne Labs and Associate Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School, explained, “Safety checklist are not a piece of paper that somehow magically protect patients, but rather they are a tool to help change practice, to foster a specific type of behavior in communications, to change implicit communication to explicit in order to create a culture where speaking up is permitted and encouraged and to create an environment where information is shared between all members of the team.”

The most important benefit that has resulted from the use of this checklist is the reduction of post-surgical deaths. The most recent study of the checklist program found there was a 22 percent reduction in post-surgical deaths in hospitals where the checklist was used.

While many hospitals have implemented the use of a checklist, it is important to make sure that health care providers are using the checklist – or something like it – for each and every surgery. Otherwise, the benefits of a checklist approach are lost.

If you or someone you love has suffered from a post-surgical complication that may be the result of failing to adhere to proper protocols, including a surgical safety checklist, The Eisen Law Firm can help. Call our experienced Cleveland malpractice lawyers to discuss your options for legal recourse and for obtaining the compensation you deserve. To schedule your free consultation, call 216-287-0900 or contact us online today.