Mistakes in hospitals happen at an alarming rate. In fact, a recent study published by British Medical Journal that found medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States, resulting in roughly 250,000 deaths each year. Due to gaps in current hospital reporting requirements, this number could be much higher.
Some of these hospital errors fall under the umbrella of “never events.” These include mistakes such as leaving an object inside a patient after surgery, performing surgery on the wrong patient, or on the wrong body part.
Some common hospital errors include:
- Medication errors: The Institute of Medicine estimates that medication errors harm roughly 1.5 million people each year. This includes prescribing the wrong medication or administering an improper dosage, which can result in overdose or allergic reactions.
- Blood transfusions: A 2011 study determined that roughly that 60% of the red blood cell transfusions performed in the United States were inappropriate. Overuse of blood transfusions can increase the risk of infection, disease, and death.
- Infections: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 1 in every 25 hospital patients are at serious risk of contracting infection. This could be due to a doctor or nurse not properly washing their hands or using unsterilized equipment.
- Excessive oxygen for premature babies: In some situations, physicians administer oxygen to premature babies to aid breathing. Too much oxygen can have an adverse effect, such as blindness.
Health Affairs has determined that one in every three patients in a hospital will experience an adverse event. This is an alarming statistic considering the events are usually preventable.
Why are So Many Medical Errors Unreported?
Unfortunately, a number of medical errors go unobserved on official records, and thus do not get counted in fatality statistics. This is because death certificates do not require as much information and the codes provided by insurance billing do not capture medical or human error as factors in the system.
The study cites one case in which a patient had successfully undergone organ transplant surgery, but later returned to the hospital for a non-specific complaint. During testing, the doctor allegedly accidently cut the liver unknowingly. The patient returned with internal bleeding before going into cardiac arrest and later dying. The death certificate cited cardiovascular issue as the cause of death despite the cut being the actual reason.
Previous studies have shown that the issue of undercounted medical errors expands past the borders of the United States and is a worldwide problem.
What is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice, also known as medical negligence, is when a physician — doctor, nurse, anesthesiologist, etc. — fails to meet the accepted standard of care, causing a patient harm. This can include surgical errors, anesthesiology mistakes, medication errors, emergency room mistakes, misdiagnosis, and more. These types of actions can result in serious brain or spinal cord injury or even death. Proving medical negligence usually involves three key factors:
- Showing that the patient suffered harm;
- Showing that the healthcare provider failed to give reasonable care under the circumstances;
- Showing that the patient’s harm was caused by the healthcare provider’s negligence.
Help for Wrongful Death Caused by Medical Negligence
Hospital patients may be able to hold their physicians and/or hospitals responsible for harm caused by medical negligence. Experienced medical malpractice lawyers, such as the ones at Clark, Fountain, La Vista, Prather & Littky-Rubin, know how to pursue strong cases so that healthcare providers are held accountable to injured patients by obtaining fair and just compensation. Our attorneys fight so that our clients’ voices are heard. If you, or someone you love, was harmed by medical malpractice, we invite you to contact us for a free review of your legal rights and options.