The Surgical Mortality Reality: 1 in 10 Deaths from Treatment or Care

When we agree to undergo surgery at a public or private hospital, we of course hope for a good outcome. Ideally, the surgery will go well and we will come out feeling much better than when we went in. Yet in reality the very opposite can occur. It is no secret that people can and do die before, during or after surgery.

In fact, according to one study, one in every 10 surgical deaths is directly caused by failures in the health care system.

Medical Negligence: Getting to the bottom of things

These are troubling facts, behind which are very real stories of human suffering in both Australia and New Zealand. The field of medical negligence law is designed to remedy just a little of the pain experienced by loved ones in such difficult and unexpected circumstances. Within this realm, the task of getting to the bottom of a deeply traumatic situation becomes a vital one.

Troubling figures

In the latest Australian and New Zealand Audits of Surgical Mortality Report, breadth and variety of mistakes made with care and treatment are starkly represented. The audits were compiled by examining data from 2009-2013, incorporating more than 18,000 surgical deaths within the reporting period.

Two key problem areas were identified: the effects of delay in providing surgical treatment, as well as the actual decision of the surgeon to operate in the first place.

When time is of the essence

Operations can be delayed for any number of reasons. In the case of regional patients needing more specialist care, fatal delays can arise through pre-surgery transportation issues. It is natural to believe that when we are told to ‘wait a bit’ for surgery, such a pause won’t prove deadly. Yet this is one of the greatest causes of death across the examined data.

Jumping in too soon?

Where surgical mortality arises from the decision to operate, the report reveals a variety of rash medical decisions being made in the face of complex conditions. In some of these situations, just one more simple test or x-ray would have revealed the necessity to hold off on surgery to address a particular complicating factor. Without a thorough and comprehensive analysis of the patient’s overall health, a rushed decision to operate can end in avoidable tragedy.

Poor surgical technique

Occasionally, even timely and necessary surgery can result to death as a result of poor surgical technique and after care.

Even the best surgeon can get it wrong, make errors of judgement or not respond to the signs that an anaesthetised patient is in trouble and deteriorating.

Looking for safe hands

At first relatives can be in shock, unable to comprehend that an educated doctor – a surgeon no less – could have been the actual cause of the fatality.

When medical treatment causes fatality, it results in shock and grief for relatives. Medical malpractice lawyers often deal with relatives who cannot quite believe that their loved one has been lost in the system in this way.

With one in 10 instances of surgical mortality stemming from either flawed care or serious injury during treatment, in pays to be informed of the rights and responsibilities of you and your loved ones.

A matter of trust

The report sets out some frightening realities about our safety in surgical contexts. When something goes wrong for a loved one within a surgical context, emotions can range from abject grief through to bewilderment and anger. A trusted advisor with expertise in medical negligence law can help to sort out the facts of the matter. Gaining clarity on specific medical and legal issues can be one step on the path to understanding – and to eventual healing.