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When the Pause Rule is Done Right, but Surgery Still Goes Wrong

Pause Rule

The Florida Board of Medicine has interpreted a standard of care and consequently instituted procedures to ensure the execution of best practices by Florida medical professionals. One of these regulations involves the “Pause Rule.”  The definition of this rule revolves around requiring that once a surgical team and theater are prepared to perform a given surgical procedure on a patient, the law requires them to pause, or wait to confirm various elements and facts regarding surgery before they proceed to the begin the actual surgery.

What the Pause Rule Addresses

With an elective surgery, in which there is no present life-threatening emergency, the team gathered for the procedure will wait for the attending physician to confirm verbally the identification of the patient, the specific procedure being performed and the exact site of the procedure. This may seem elementary, but in the midst of a day lined up with patients and similar procedures, it could be possible to confuse charts, details and faces. In cases where sedation of the patient is used, which is often, the patient is asked prior to sedation to confirm their identity. This pause rule was intended to prevent a variety of mistakes that most patients might take for granted. These mistakes include:

  • Wrong Procedures
  • Wrong Site Surgeries

Of these types of mistakes, the one focused on due to its past frequency and devastating effects on the patients is Wrong Site Surgeries, or WSS. In this type of mistake there are several subsets, including:

  • Wrong side – can occur when there are two (pairs) of certain body parts, i.e. eyes, lungs, breasts.
  • Correct side but wrong location – can occur with different aspects of a particular location such as the wrong finger on the correct hand or the wrong muscle on the correct side of the face.
  • Incorrect procedure on the correct location.
  • Correct procedure and location but wrong patient.

The Pause Rule is Helpful but Not Foolproof

There are many things a surgical team can do to prevent a WSS, but most of them require a level of organization prior to the time of the surgical appointment. A lack of general organization and procedural consistency can cause confusion regarding a simple mistake, including the correct identity of the patient.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information, or NCBI, reports that studies show many factors that align to sabotage the most basic assertions regarding patient identity and surgical information provided at the time of service. On a busy day, with some patients inadequately labeled, some sedated, beds being moved around, operations sites not being clearly marked on the body or call sheet, disconnect between intake and the theater staff, and time pressures are only a  few things that can create opportunities for negligence to occur before the patient enters the operating theater.

The main way of addressing any of these issues is for the physician to follow a strict checklist affirming all of the pertinent information. Even if the pause rule is enacted, but a checklist of confirmations is incomplete or not followed, mistakes are made. In the case of these types of mistakes, there is much liability to go around.

If you believe you or a loved one may have been injured due to some form of medical malpractice involving the ineffective use of the Pause Rule or any type of MSS or other mistake, you might be eligible for compensation. It can be tough to sort out or prove these kinds of mistakes and you’ll need someone in your corner who can aggressively search for facts and details to prove your case. Tison Law Group has an experienced team of personal injury attorneys who will make sure you receive what you are due in these cases. Call us today to find out your best options.

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