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Wrong-Side Surgery Shouldn't Happen

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Kansas City, MOVeteran medical malpractice attorney Grant Davis has handled several lawsuits on behalf of people who have been injured when operating room doctors perform what is known as "wrong-side surgery." He thinks carefully and then says, "The truth is that this type of situation has been addressed a great deal. The cure is proper communication."

Davis has just won a $20 million verdict in the tragic case of 15-year-old Cody Metheny. In 2004 Metheny had surgery at the Arkansas Children's Hospital to excise brain tissue and relieve him of seizures. During the operation, doctors removed matter from the wrong side of Metheny's brain. Metheny was irreparably damaged and went from a vital young man to someone incapable of caring for himself.

The hospital made no attempt to settle before trial." "The insurance company provided a scorched-earth defense," says Davis. "They fought over everything, including liability and damages."

During the trial, Davis says that the Arkansas Children's Hospital indicated in "a very cavalier manner that these things go on all the time."

"They said 'it's just human error,' " Davis adds.

But as Davis points out, there should be no room for human error when hospital staff follows the guidelines set out by the Joint Commission, the agency that accredits and governs hospitals in the US.

Hospitals are required to follow a triple-check system before every surgery." "The verification process ensures that it is the correct patient, the correct site, the correct procedure before they even go into the operating room," says Davis.

The system requires that once inside the operating room, the plans for surgery are checked again and, additionally, requires that surgeons initial the site.

"They have a final time time-out when they must all come together and make a unanimous decision, including the nurses, the scrub technician and the doctors. They must all agree that this is the correct patient, correct operative site, the correct side, the correct patient position," says Davis.

"All of those checks are mandated by the Joint Commission," says Davis. "If the verification rules and time-out rules are followed correctly, they would prevent wrong-sided surgeries."

Davis refuses to discuss the reaction of the Metheny family to the verdict, although it is fair to say that they are relieved they will have the money necessary to care for their son in the future.

The hospital has said in a statement that it "regrets what happened" and wishes "Cody Metheny well."

Although an appeal is possible by the hospital and its insurance company, Davis says, "If Arkansas Children's Hospital really means they wish this young man well, they won't appeal."

"f they don't mean it, I guess they will appeal and this young man will be without proper medical care," adds Davis.


Grant Davis is a name partner with the firm of Davis, Bethune & Jones and has been practicing law since 1987. The firm handles an array of litigation, including wrong-side surgery, medical malpractice, helicopter crashes, and railway accidents, and has represented farmers in legal disputes with the agricultural chemical industry.

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