About Amy Umble:
Amy Umble is health reporter for The Free Lance-Star

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Trying to picture what happened in that operating room

When I read the wrong-site malpractice lawsuit brought against Dr. Michael Snedden, the questions that went through my head concerned the operating room. What was going on in that room?

The lawsuit was brought by a 38-year-old woman who says she went to Snedden to have a tumor removed from the back of her right shoulder. The suit claims that on the morning of the operation, the nurses at the Fredericksburg Ambulatory Surgery Center correctly prepped the back of the woman’s shoulder. Yet by the time the patient left the operating room, according to the suit, surgery had been done on the front of her shoulder. Snedden’s attorney declined to comment on the case. He has not yet filed a reply to the suit in court. (A story about the suit appears in today’s paper and can be read here.)

The lawsuit says that Snedden admitted his error to the woman the next day when her bandage was removed. Still, I wonder about the atmosphere in the OR that day. Assuming the facts presented in the document:

* Does the OR staff feel empowered to stop a procedure when they know something is about to go wrong?

* Did those in the room go through some sort of pre-surgery checklist?

* Did someone try to correct Snedden when it was obvious that he was about to operate on the front of the shoulder?

* Did he overrule them?