Most of us go through life with limited medical knowledge, and are therefore forced to trust our doctors to listen to our accounts of our symptoms and treat our various ailments accordingly based on their own knowledge and expertise. Being a good patient means following their instructions, and there’s a general assumption that those who do so are likely to feel better and function better in their lives. When that doesn’t happen, there’s another assumption that the doctor and/or other medical professionals did their best. Only that assumption is untrue more often than most of us are led to believe.
This is because one of the major sources that is used in the U.S. to report the cause of death, does not list medical errors as a cause of death. However, according to a report from NPR, on a study conducted at John Hopkins University there is definitely cause for concern. Analysis from the John Hopkins study estimates that more than a quarter million Americans lose their lives each year because of a medical error. If this was listed, it would be considered the third leading cause of death, behind heart disease and cancer, which both take about twice as many lives.
Not Set Up to Report on Medical Errors
One of the main reasons why the CDC does not list medical error as a cause of death, regardless of how clear an error might be because the coding system doesn’t allow it. There’s no official way to make note of a poor decision, a communication failure, or a misdiagnosis that led to the wrong treatment with devastating side effects, or the failure to provide treatment for the actual disease or injury. When the CDC puts together its statistics, it’s based on the “underlying cause of death”– which is simply the reason why the person sought treatment. International guidelines are apparently similar and a representative from the CDC has said that in order to make updates that would recognize medical errors as an actual cause of death, they would need a “really compelling reason.”
When several doctors and nurses were asked about medical errors, largely with the protection of anonymity, many admitted to making medical errors that turned out to be fatal. Many said that fatigue or a fear of questioning the system or hierarchy of the workplace were contributing factors in why mistakes were made or failed to be acknowledged before it was too late. Some of the errors reported included
- Inserting a tube into the wrong place during surgery
- Prescribing the wrong dose of medication for a toddler
- Trusting unqualified med students to diagnose a patient
- Discharging a patient after a stroke
- A nurse failing to speak up to correct a doctor’s error
If something went wrong with medical treatment that you or a loved one received, and the result was a serious injury or a quicker progression of a disease, it is possible that medical error is a major contributing factor in your suffering. At The Law Offices of Salazar, Sullivan & Jasionowski we are experienced in handled a variety of medical malpractice cases, and are ready to listen to your story to help you determine whether pursuing compensation is an option for you. Contact us to set up a free consultation.