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Surgical Mistakes Often Kept Secret By Hospitals and Care Providers

The public deserves to know when medical care providers and hospitals make mistakes resulting in patient harm. Unfortunately, many malpractice settlements come with confidentiality agreements preventing injured patients from speaking out about their stories. Patients do not learn how frequently surgical errors occur as a result of these confidential settlements, which means patients cannot make informed choices about where to get a procedure done. Patients are also kept in the dark about all of the risks they face when a particular surgeon performs an operation at a specific hospital.  

Confidentiality Clauses Mean Patients Can’t Learn About Surgical Errors

9 Investigates reports on the “secret settlements” healthcare facilities frequently enter into to compensate patients for surgical errors while keeping patterns of negligence from the public.

One patient interviewed for the story had sustained serious health problems when a surgical sponge was left inside of her body. She knew something was wrong after the procedure, and six months later the sponge was spotted on an x-ray. She was diagnosed with an abdominal mass and sent back to her original surgeon for emergency surgery. When the sponge was removed, the surgeon never told her it was a sponge. The hospital ultimately settled the case with her, but a condition of the settlement was signing a confidentiality agreement.

The confidentiality agreement prevented her from discussing what had happened and for the last 20 years she has suffered in silence as she underwent multiple additional surgeries and endured years of pain. While she still cannot discuss the settlement, she is speaking out about what she went through as part of an effort to get rules changed about the permissibility of confidentiality agreements.

Several states– including California, Florida, and South Carolina– have laws prohibiting confidentiality agreements in some or all malpractice claims, so there is more transparency when a hospital makes a surgical mistake. These laws make it impossible for healthcare facilities to buy patient silence as a condition of compensating them for surgical errors they have endured.

Because so many cases are kept confidential, most patients are unaware that a surgical instrument or other foreign object is left inside patients in as many as one out of every 5,500 surgeries.

Information is not only hard to come by due to confidentiality agreements but also because there is limited data available from government sources. The federal government stopped reporting on these types of preventable errors made by hospitals last August, although the government subsequently reversed the decision and decided to keep making reports. NY laws also keep complaints against physicians secret unless the complaints result in a statement of charges or a final disciplinary action. When complaints are not adjudicated or when complaints are settled without formal disciplinary action, the public may never know a surgeon has made an error.

Patients deserve to know when doctors and hospitals have a history of serious mistakes in surgery. More states should consider putting laws in place prohibiting healthcare facilities from forcing affected patients to stay silent.

Jonathan C. Reiter's

New York City Personal Injury Lawyer / Aviation Accident Attorney

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Manhattan Medical Malpractice Info Center

Lenox Hill Hospital

A 652-bed teaching hospital, Lenox Hill Hospital is located in the Lenox Hill neighborhood at 100 E. 77th Street. This 652-bed on the Upper East Side of Manhattan serves mostly patients from Manhattan, but other patients are admitted from Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, Long Island and throughout the tri-state region. Anyone who suspects negligence after treatment should speak with an experienced attorney immediately.

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Manhattan Medical Malpractice Info Center

Bellevue Hospital Center

Bellevue Hospital Center at 462 1st Avenue has 828 beds and experiences 115,797 emergency room visits each year. Bellevue had a higher rate of infections compared to hospitals in other states, according to a New York State Department of Health Report in 2009. Anyone who is injured by the negligence of a doctor or nurse at this Manhattan hospital, the oldest in the United States, will need an experienced attorney with experience and resources needed to take aggressive action.

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Manhattan Medical Malpractice Info Center

New York Presbyterian-Lower Manhattan Hospital

Lower Manhattan Hospital at 170 William Street in New York is one of the main campuses of New York-Presbyterian Hospital. This hospital, with 170 beds, provides a range of inpatient and outpatient services. According to an article in the New York Post, New York-Presbyterian scored 18 percent below average for patient safety in a ranking of hospitals by Consumer Reports magazine. Patients who suspect medical malpractice should not hesitate to arrange a consultation with a New York City attorney who can investigate and hold the negligent medical care provider accountable.

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Mount Sinai Beth Israel

The main hospital known as the Petrie Division is located at First Avenue and 16th Street. But Mount Sinai Beth Israel has other campuses, including Phillips Ambulatory Care Center at Union Square. Mount Sinai Beth Israel is a teaching hospital with 1,368 beds. If you suffered any form of negligence while being treated at Mount Sinai Beth Israel, take action immediately to protect your rights.

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Manhattan Medical Malpractice Info Center

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center at 1275 York Avenue in Manhattan provides cancer care to patients. The hospital is composed of two institutions: Memorial Hospital for Cancer and Allied Diseases, which provides patient care, and the Sloan Kettering Institute, which is focused on research. Patients who suspect a failure to diagnose cancer or some other type of hospital negligence can contact a lawyer to discuss options.

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Manhattan Medical Malpractice Info Center

Mount Sinai Hospital

Mount Sinai Hospital at One Gustave L. Levy Place is a 1,048-bed facility founded in 1852. It is one of the oldest and largest teaching hospitals in the country. Consumer Reports rated Mount Sinai 31 percent below average for patient safety. If you or a loved one was a victim of medical malpractice at any Manhattan hospital, don’t wait to contact an attorney to find out if you have a case. You may be entitled to compensation.

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St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center

St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital Center at 1111 Amsterdam Avenue was ranked No. 14 out of the 30 worst hospitals for patient safety, as identified by Consumer Reports. The magazine examined four key measures of patient safety: hospital-acquired infections, readmissions and the quality of communication between staff and patients in regard to medications and discharge planning.

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New York-Presbyterian/ Columbia University Medical Center

New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center at 630 West 168th Street was described by a lawmaker as having “horrendous conditions.” Emergency room wait times last an average of 85 minutes, which rank among New York’s 10 worst. Any patient who was treated at the 995-bed hospital in Washington Heights and suspects negligence should not hesitate to speak with an attorney for a free consultation.

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Harlem Hospital Center

Harlem Hospital Center at 506 Malcolm X Blvd. received a 20 on a 1-to-100 scale gauging patient safety by Consumer Reports. The hospital received the second worst score in the nation, according to a New York Post report. Harlem Hospital told Consumer Reports it needs to improve in some areas, according to the Post. The hospital is a general medical and surgical hospital with 272 beds.