John Murtha, a U.S. Congressman for nearly 40 years and the first Vietnam War veteran to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, may have died due to a surgical error, according to the 

Rep. Murtha went in for Laparoscopic gallbladder removal surgery but suffered complications after the procedure. Apparently, the complications stemmed from when the surgeon accidently cut his intestines causing an infection to develop, according to

Unfortunately, surgical mistakes like these are not uncommon. In fact, nearly 200,000 people die every year due to preventable medical errors.  Given these shocking statistics, our law firm recently published a consumer report about the most common surgical mistakes (be sure to take a look if you or a loved one is planning to undergo surgery).

Here’s a video discussing the unbelievably high number of preventable deaths due to medical mistakes…

In a confidential study, almost 9 percent of U.S. surgeons responding said they made a major error in the three months prior to being surveyed, according to the Mayo Clinic. Over 70 percent of surgeons attributed the error to themselves rather than a systemic or organizational cause.

If the reports are true, Rep. Murtha death due to a preventable surgical error highlights the fact that anyone, even influential Congressmen, can be adversely affected by mistake mistakes. We need dramatic reform in our health safety system. I recently wrote an article about how many surgical mistakes could be prevented with the use of a “safe-surgery” checklist. 

This checklist would provide basic procedural guidelines that must be checked, and re-checked before and after a surgery. A recent study shows that approximately one third of patient complications and deaths have been reduced when surgeons followed the “safe-surgical checklist.”  Despite its effectiveness, only 20 percent of hospitals have adopted it. This needs to change. It’s clear what we’re doing now isn’t working as well as it should. A checklist could be an effective tool in decreasing the number of needless deaths due to surgical mistakes.