Medical errors lead to thousands of deaths every year across the United States. The numbers are staggering at 440,000 per year, but they are preventable.
These medical errors can happen due to a wrong diagnosis, being prescribed the wrong medication, surgical errors or infections that go undetected.
Patient Safety America was created to help inform patients about healthcare in the United States. Dr. John T. James, Ph.D., runs the advocacy organization. It’s dedicated to his son who died at 19 years of age from what Dr. James calls “uninformed, careless, and unethical care by cardiologists.”
The patient advocacy organization site shows that medical errors are the third leading cause of death behind heart disease and cancer. It also found:
• First-year mortality rates in the U.S. ranks 42nd of all countries as of 2009 using data from the United Nations
• The U.S. ranks 39th when it comes to maternal mortality
• U.S. ranks 19th out of 19 developed counties in deaths that are otherwise preventable
• We are paying about twice as much per person for U.S. health care
A study was released in the Journal of Patient Safety in September 2013 to provide an updated number of deaths that were due to medical errors. A report was released by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) that found about 98,000 Americans who died every year due to medical errors. This was based on data from 1984.
The 2013 study, “A New, Evidence-based Estimate of Patient Harms Association with Hospital Care,” took a look at four studies and found that the “true number” of deaths related to medical errors exceeded 400,000 per year.
How You Can Prevent Medical Errors
As a patient, you are your own best advocate. If you feel you are incapable of making important medical decisions on your own, ask a trusted family member or friend to join you at your doctor’s appointments.
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality outlines tips for patients to prevent medical errors. It outlines 20 suggestions, including the following:
• Keep a list of all medications you are currently taking, and any medications you are allergic to
• Read prescriptions from doctors and ask any questions you have at the time he or she prescribes it to you
• Always ask about any possible side effects that your medication can cause. If it is not provided with the medication, ask for written information
• During a hospital stay, make sure any health care worker washes his or her hands before touching you to prevent the spread of infection
• Make sure you are aware of any new treatment plan you must follow after you are discharged
• If you have to have surgery, and you have a choice, pick a hospital where the procedure or surgery has been performed numerous times
• Before surgery make sure everyone is on the same page about what is going to be done
• Ask family members or a friend to come with you to your appointments
• Find out why you are told you “need” a certain test or treatment, sometimes you might be better off without it
• Always, always speak up and talk to your doctor about any and all concerns
Exclusively focused on representing plaintiffs, especially in mass tort litigation, Eric Chaffin prides himself on providing unsurpassed professional legal services in pursuit of the specific goals of his clients and their families. Both his work and his cases have been featured in the national press, including on ABC’s Good Morning America.