Medical mishaps a deadly epidemic: 98,000 victims die each year

Many Philadelphia patients are aware that medical mistakes can occur, but they feel sure it would never happen to them. These patients think they go to great facilities and they trust their doctors. These patients believe that they would know if there was cause for concern regarding their health care.

But would they? According to one surgeon that has worked at top institutions, including Johns Hopkins and Harvard, cases of medical malpractice occur far more regularly than patients realize. Incidents are simply severely underreported.

An estimated 25 percent of all patients hospitalized will suffer at the hands of a medical error. If that statistic isn’t enough to convince people that medical errors are a real threat, maybe this number will: 98,000. According to the Institute of Medicine, 98,000 victims die each year in the United States as a result of medical errors. People are dying in Philadelphia and other cities across the nation because doctors make deadly mistakes.

According to this expert in the field, the biggest obstacle to overcome is transparency in health care. This means that facilities should publically report critical statistics regarding infection, readmission, egregious errors and surgical complications, as elevated numbers in these statistics are often indicative of high rates of medical errors. Public record of this will hold hospitals accountable. Further, when a medical malpractice settlement is reached, the victim should not have to agree to remain silent in the wake of the settlement. Gag orders should be eliminated.

Teamwork is another common shortcoming. Often, nurses and other staff do not feel comfortable verbalizing a doctor’s errors or missteps. Even amongst doctors, it is the norm to turn a blind eye to mistakes for fear of retaliation. Recording procedures could eliminate some of this because it holds everyone accountable. Doctors are more inclined to adhere to best practices when they know that they could have to answer to proof of deviation.

While there are clearly adjustments that need to be made within the scope of the health care profession, patients in Philadelphia can rest assured knowing that if they are victimized by a medical mistake, there are avenues available to hold health care providers accountable. Medical malpractice claims can achieve this and may entitle the victim to compensation. If a patient feels they have been the victim of a medical mistake, the first step toward holding responsible parties liable may be seeking an experienced legal advocate.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, “How to Stop Hospitals From Killing Us,” Marty Makary, Sept. 21, 2012

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