surgical errors are no joke so why is this surgeon laughing

Our last few posts have been about the risks of surgery and the medical negligence that leads to them. Surgical errors are more common than they should be, and a recent article in The Wall Street Journal discussed what it’s like to be in the operating room during surgery.

The excerpt was adapted from the surgeon’s book, “Confessions of a Surgeon.” In his piece, the surgeon makes light of the complications associated with risky surgeries, compares surgery patients to poker hands and talks about throwing surgical equipment across the operating room.

At a first glance, the writing seems funny. After all, who would think that surgeons carry on conversations with the body parts on which they are operating? Yet, there is another level of the writing that is frustrating. All the things the surgeon jokes about are the things that lead to surgical errors, and medical malpractice is nothing to joke about.

In the opening paragraph, the surgeon talks about throwing a defective piece of medical equipment across the operating room. He describes the colon stapling device exploding into pieces when it hits the wall.

There is no doubt that defective equipment would be frustrating, but you can’t help but question the shortcomings in a hospital that allows a surgeon to go into two separate operations with the same piece of defective equipment.

The surgeon went on to say that “explosions are a go-to reaction” for surgeons who are confronted with negative memories from previous surgeries that had complications. Again, the frustration is understandable, but any surgeon who is cursing, having tantrums or throwing instruments cannot be in the mindset necessary to operate on a vulnerable patient.

Every professional can empathize with the frustration of not succeeding at every task that is assigned during a career. However, when the assigned “task” is cutting open and operating on an unconscious patient, surgeons need to leave their frustrations outside the operating room and focus on doing everything in their power to achieve the best results they can.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, “Secrets of the Operating Room,” Paul A. Ruggieri, Dec. 31, 2011

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