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Fatalities from hospital mistakes may be underestimated: Part Two

In our last post we discussed the fact that many more people die each year as a result of hospital mistakes than previously estimated. In fact, the number may be double what experts previously believed, making hospital mistakes one of the leading causes of death in the United States. 

Mistakes can come in many shapes and sizes and can cause all manner of illness or injury. Experts call them "adverse events" which are characterized by something that happens in a hospital that causes a preventable harm to a patient. By reviewing medical records that contain these events, researchers found 210,000 patient deaths resulted from these adverse events. The number doubles when they take into account ommissions in treatment that could have saved lives. 

Experts say that much more information is needed to determine the root causes of these incidents and to help stop this large number of preventable deaths each year. Many patient safety advocates agree that finding the causes and eliminating these mistakes should be a high priority in the United States.

The truth is that when looked at on a large-scale, these problems can seem insurmountable. However, if the focus goes to the individual cases and the families that are impacted by these mistakes, the specific incidents are clearly preventable. For example, misreading a chart and overlooking a drug interaction could have fatal consequences, but taking an extra moment to double-check and protect against a medication error can help save a life. By that same token, doctors and hospitals are responsible for maintaining a reasonable level of care and caution when treating patients and that means that if they are found to have been negligent they may be liable for medical malpractice.

Source: Idea Stream, “How Many Die From Medical Mistakes In U.S. Hospitals,” Sept. 20, 2013

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