Doctor Offers Unique Perspective on Both Sides of Medical Mistakes

As a medical student wrapping up her first year at Harvard Medical School, one young woman got a painful, first-hand taste of the short comings of the medical system and the amount of mistakes that can happen far more often than many may assume or feel comfortable with.

This young woman’s mother was in a hospital battling the late stages of breast cancer. After watching her mother suffer in the months leading up to her death, the daughter and medical student recounts witnessing her mother receive medication errors, suffer hallucinations, fall without immediate aid and other problems that made the young woman realize that it takes more than caring about patients to keep them healthy.

A serious medical mistake that this daughter witnessed happen to her mother on multiple occasions was medication errors. Switching between doctors that were unfamiliar with fluctuating doses meant that on some occasions the mother was given too much of a powerful drug that made her sleep for days. When an individual’s time is limited to months, a few days is a very significant amount of time to lose because of inattention, miscommunication and miscalculation on behalf of a medical professional.

In another instance, the mother was given the wrong dose of chemotherapy, which may have shortened her time before her death because it meant that she did not fully receive the life-prolonging treatment that she was supposed to.

The now Harvard Medical School graduate says this experience hugely impacted her handlings with patients, their families and safety. She has implemented changes that work to identify, track and correct such errors from continuing to affect other patients. Unfortunately, these things are still happening across the country, including here in Pennsylvania.

When a patient is seriously impacted by a medical mistake, they could be entitled in some instances to remuneration through a medical malpractice claim. While compensation does not reverse the happenings, at present as parties work together to fix the medical system, compensation is sometimes the best remedy and acknowledgement our legal system can offer following such happenings.

Source: ProPublica, “What a New Doctor Learned About Medical Mistakes From Her Mom’s Death,” Marshall Allen, Jan. 9, 2013