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My left, or your left?

By Times staff
© St. Petersburg Times,
published December 11, 2001

The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations recently issued an alert warning patients, doctors and hospitals to take care to avoid wrong and wrong-site surgeries. The alert included recommendations for hospitals and doctors, as well as these recommendations for patients:

  • You and your surgeon should agree on exactly what will be done during the operation.
  • Insist that the surgical site be marked with a permanent marker, and be involved in marking the site. The goal is to make it difficult for the surgical team to overlook or confuse the site.
  • Think of yourself as an active participant in the safety and quality of your health care. Studies show that patients who are actively involved in making decisions about their care are more likely to have good outcomes.
  • Ask questions. Speak up if you have concerns. Patients have the right to ask questions and expect answers they can understand.
  • Insist that your surgery be done at a JCAHO-accredited facility. This accreditation is considered the "gold standard," meaning that the hospital or surgery center has undergone a rigorous on-site evaluation and meets national quality and safety standards.
  • To check whether a facility is accredited, visit the Quality Check area on JCAHO's Web site. Consumers can also check for accreditation problems at any member hospital, as well as report mistakes. The Web site is

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