Medical errors are the third-leading cause of death in the United States, surpassed only by cancer and heart disease. Medical errors now out-rank cases of Alzheimers and diabetes in patients.
Medical Errors Cause Patient Deaths
According to a recent study by John Hopkins University School of Medicine, medical errors are the third-leading cause of death in America, accounting for 700 deaths every day. Reports show an estimated 250,000 deaths caused by medical errors every year in the U.S., but health officials suspect actual deaths may be as high as 440,000 per year.
The John Hopkins study blames medical errors on several factors including doctors, nurses, and health aids that are inadequately trained, errors in judgment, technical system defects, and communication errors among staff and patients. As a result, undiagnosed illnesses and diseases, mix-ups with medications, improper doses of drugs, untreated conditions, errors in patient charts, and computer malfunctions put thousands of patients at risk for serious injury or death.
Unreported Medical Errors
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports national death statistics based solely on the information noted on individual death certificates. The CDC uses the same coding system used by hospitals and medical facilities to record the underlying cause of a patient’s death. The coding system does not record or track medical errors related to communication errors, medication errors, misdiagnosis, or negligent actions by hospitals, medical facilities, or any licensed medical professionals including physicians, nurses, pharmacists, dentists, paramedics, or chiropractors.
While medical errors account for about 10 percent of patient deaths, medical errors on death certificates are rarely noted by physicians, medical examiners, coroners, and funeral directors. According to health officials, if the CDC documented deaths from medical errors, they would outnumber deaths from heart attacks, strokes, respiratory diseases, and kidney and liver diseases combined.
Reckless and Negligent Patient Care
Hospitals and medical professionals owe a duty of care to patients to protect against harm while providing medical care and treatments. Medical errors can occur in almost any healthcare setting including hospitals, surgical centers, private clinics, physicians’ offices, nursing homes, and even pharmacies. Medical errors in the U.S, are at an all-time high around the country. Thousands of patients in hospital settings are injured by medical errors, and one in seven Medicare patients in long-term care facilities and nursing homes are victims of medical errors caused by neglect. The most common medical errors include:
- Wrong, missed or delayed diagnosis
- Failure to act on lab or test results
- Treatment delays that could be avoided
- Inadequate follow-up after treatments
- Anesthesia and surgical errors
- Drug and medication errors
The National Patient Safety Foundation reports that almost 50 percent of surgeries performed in U.S. hospitals are associated with drug and medication errors. Medications that commonly cause patient harm include:
Propofol – A common sedative used in operating rooms
Fentanyl – A very strong pain medication given to patients after surgery
Phenylephrine – A medication given to surgery patients with low blood pressure to increase blood flow
Among the most frequent medication errors reported to Chicago medical malpractice lawyers are missed or omitted medications, incorrect dosages, and labeling mistakes. More than one-third of patients who take medications regularly are harmed in some way by their medications. Patients who take multiple medications simultaneously report illness or other symptoms such as nausea or vomiting, dizziness, headaches, rapid heartbeat, low or high blood pressure, loss of appetite, and sleep problems.
Verbal and written communication errors are responsible for a large number of medical mistakes in hospitals and medical facilities. In hospitals and clinics where various physicians and specialists, surgeons, nurses, health aides, and staff members interact with patients daily, poor communication causes a breakdown in information. Technical failures and wrong data also contribute to communication errors that lead to medical mistakes that cause may harm patients.
Medical Malpractice Claims
In Illinois, medical errors found in hospitals, nursing homes, and long-term care facilities are common reasons for medical malpractice claims filed with Chicago medical malpractice lawyers. Medical malpractice lawsuits are based on patient injuries directly related to reckless or negligent actions by medical professionals.
To establish a valid medical malpractice claim, a plaintiff must prove that a medical facility or medical professional failed to meet the standard duty of care to the patient, and that failure was directly responsible for the patient’s injuries. If the patient dies as a result of his/her injuries, family members can file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the deceased. In certain cases, breach of duty or negligence may be difficult to prove: if multiple health providers provided patient care; more than one medical professional treated the patient, and there is more than one cause of injury.