Medical mistakes are the one of the leading causes of death in the United States; CNN reports that approximately 250,000 people are killed and millions more are injured from medical errors each year. Experts estimate that over 7.5 million unnecessary medical and surgical procedures are performed each year in our country, in addition to the 50,000 people every day who receive unnecessary medical treatment. According to the American Association for Justice, preventable medical errors are the sixth biggest killer in America.
Now, it is important to understand that both sides – the healthcare provider and the patient –are equally responsible for unnecessary medical treatment. Physicians are always willing to perform procedures that the patient may believe is necessary, because they simply are paid for their work. On the other side of the coin, many people admit themselves to hospitals and emergency rooms when it is completely unnecessary.
To make things a little clearer, CNN recently broke down the top ten medical mistakes affecting the people of our country. Hopefully this list will help you become a better personal patient advocate and lead you to make more informed decisions about medical care.
1. Treating the Wrong Patient
It may sound silly, but patient mix-ups happen a lot more often than you might think. Hospitals take in a lot of people every day, and many of them may have names that are the same or sound similar. Making sure that the hospital staff knows your true identity and allergies could save your life.
2. Surgical Souvenirs
We’ve all seen cartoon-style depictions of a surgeon leaving his watch in the belly of an unsuspecting patient. Oddly enough, approximately 1 in every 5,000 surgery patients has some form of object from the operating room left inside of their bodies on accident after surgery. If you experience any unexpected pain or swelling following surgery, you might want to explore the possibility that you accidentally received a surgical souvenir.
3. Lost Patients
This is yet another seemingly silly incident that is quite the commonality. As we mentioned already, hospitals have an overwhelming number of patients to deal with each day and cannot always keep track of everyone. Some patients, especially those who are elderly or have dementia, are prone to wandering the hospital hallways and can end up getting lost.
4. Impersonating Physicians
This is simply a matter of due-diligence when selecting your healthcare provider. Believe it or not, there are people out there who will falsely identify themselves as a licensed physician. When researching healthcare providers, it is important to be absolutely certain that your doctor is not only licensed, but has no history of medical malpractice or mistreating patients.
5. Waiting for Care
Again, we’ve talked about how many people are admitted to hospitals every day in the United States. Usually, someone is always waiting in the emergency room for space to open up. In the end, patients end up waiting and becoming even more ill. CNN advises that you have your personal physician call the hospital and tell them that you need to be admitted to the ER as soon as possible.
6. Oxygen Bubbles in the Bloodstream
Surgeries are very complicated, and there are a number of seemingly miniscule details that can actually cause complications for surgery patients. If a doctor sews up the incision incorrectly and allows air to enter the body, it could cut off blood supply to vital organs in the body. Unfortunately, many surgery patients are unconscious and unable to do anything to combat this risk. Before surgery, your best bet is to discuss any concerns you may have about the upcoming procedure with your physician.
7. Incorrectly Operating on the Body
This relates back to the “Treating the Wrong Patient” mistake we discussed earlier. Essentially, doctors will sometimes operate on the wrong part of the body if they misread a chart or if there is a breakdown in communication among the staff. This is another difficult mistake for patients to prevent, but CNN recommends going over the procedure with your doctor thoroughly beforehand to make sure you both clearly understand all the details.
8. Spread of Infection
Perhaps the most basic and easily preventable medical mistake is the risk of an infection following a procedure. Germs and bacteria are the only way this mistake can occur in the first place, and therefore the only way to prevent it is for doctors to make sure their hands and equipment are clean. As a patient, you have every right to clearly explain that you wish to be touched only by clean hands and utensils.
9. Device and Utensil Mix-Ups
As horrible as it sounds, the number of patients that doctors treat on a daily basis can become tedious and lead to lapses in judgment. CNN uses the example that a feeding tube and a chest tube can look very similar, and doctors do make the mistake of administering the wrong medicine into the wrong part of the body from time to time.
10. Incidental Awakenings
This is likely to be the scariest situation that surgery patients could find themselves in. If someone is under-prescribed anesthesia, there is a chance that they will wake up in the middle of a surgical procedure. Experts claim that most patients in this situation are simply aware of the situation but can’t feel anything. However, some end up feeling the pain and it can become very traumatizing.
Hopefully this list has shed some additional light on the risks involved with going to the hospital for treatment. Naturally, people do get sick or injured and need medical attention to have those health complications cared for. And although it only seems fair that the responsibility for your care and well being should rest in the hands of the healthcare providers, you can take control of the situation by making sure you get the care you deserve.
Top-Rated Medical Malpractice Lawyers
If you have been injured or suffered from a debilitating medical condition because of the negligence of a healthcare provider – such as one of the medical mistakes outlined in this post – you may be entitled to financial compensation for your injuries and medical bills. Contact the Davis Law Group today at 206-727-4000 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.