The Law Offices of John Phebus

Surgical black boxes could prevent medical errors

Arizona residents may be aware that surgical errors are a common problem in hospitals across the country and worldwide. In response, researchers and legislators are increasingly exploring the idea of recording surgical procedures in order to document errors.

For example, the University of Toronto developed a surgical "black box" that tracks a surgeon's actions during a surgical procedure in order to collect data that could help explain poor patient outcomes. The purpose would be to analyze why certain surgical errors occur and provide the information needed to prevent future medical mistakes. Likewise, legislators in Wisconsin and New York have proposed laws that would allow patients to request that their surgeries be audiovisually recorded. The proposals are in response to anesthetic errors that killed patients in both states.

While surgical errors cause many catastrophic injuries and deaths every year, there is growing public concern that doctors and hospitals do not take responsibility when these incidents occur. Advocates claim surgical black boxes could provide critical information that helps explain why certain patients have poor outcomes and also force doctors and hospitals to be more accountable. However, many medical professionals are resisting efforts to bring these devices into operating rooms, fearing that the data collected could later be used against them in court.

A person who has been the victim of a surgical error may benefit by consulting with an attorney. It may be possible to file a medical professional negligence lawsuit against the responsible doctor and hospital seeking compensation for damages. Likewise, certain surviving family members of individuals who have died as the result of medical malpractice may also be able to take legal action.

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