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Hospital Errors

Hospital error can result in patient illness, injury and even death. Medical professionals have a duty to provide a standard of care which prevents patient injury. It is estimated that medical errors kill 5,000 to 15,000 patients each year in the United States. However, there is not a consensus among doctors what constitutes a deadly error.

If you have been injured or fallen ill because of a professional's negligence this could be considered medical malpractice. The United States civil tort system allows a victim of medical malpractice to receive compensation for their losses by filing a medical malpractice lawsuit against the party or hospital responsible for the injury. If you have questions regarding your illness or injury contact a personal injury attorney familiar with medical malpractice law to review your medical malpractice claim.

Common Mistakes in Hospitals

This list of potential causes is not exhaustive, but it does cover the main areas. Most medical errors can be avoided if the doctors, nurses, dentists and other practitioners take the necessary time and care with their patients.

  • Misdiagnosis (40%)- Misdiagnosing or failing to diagnose a patient's condition can keep a patient from getting proper treatment for many ailments which need to be treated immediately. Unfortunately, this can lead to serious illness or death.
  • Surgical procedure error- Surgical mistakes can include operating on the wrong patient, wrong site, or wrong organ. Mistakes could also include leaving instruments inside the body. Surgical mistakes can cause injuries ranging from infection, disfigurement or death.
  • Incorrect laboratory results (2%) - This can include failing to order the proper tests, not performing the tests correctly or not reading the results accurately. Mistakes can also include administrative errors such as mixing the samples up.
  • Equipment malfunction (1%) - Equipment failures could include dead batteries or IV drips malfunctioning.
  • System Failures- Poor communication between physicians and nurses. Increase in number of patients. Relying too heavily on automated systems to prevent error. Lack of coordination between different groups who service the patients.
  • Human Factor- The human factor can include a variation in experience and training for the medical staff, individuals and hospitals failing to report medical errors, and an incompetent medical staff. Overwork and tiredness of medical staff called on to perform extra duties can also cause errors as well as not having safe guards or checking points in the healthcare system.
  • Communication Failures- Inappropriate communication between various medical service providers, and not keeping adequate records can cause medical errors.
  • Childbirth Error - Childbirth injury can include negligence during delivery which can result in Cerebral Palsy, Erb's Palsy or death. Mistakes can also include a failure to treat complications completely, and misreading fetal distress.
  • Medication Error (28%)- It is estimated that 7,000 Americans die each year from a medication related mistake. Prescription errors can include improper dosage, allergic reactions to medications, giving the wrong medicine to a patient or not giving the medication to a patient.

An important conclusion of the above list is that medical errors often result as a consequence of many factors.

There are many phases of treatment in which an error can occur. Errors can also occur in different locations such as: the hospital, doctor's office, pharmacy, nursing home and operating room. It is estimated that up to 70% of medical errors could have been prevented. Fortunately, hospitals are beginning to actively work to prevent errors. They are now required to tell patients and families when they have been injured due to a medical error. New standards have been developed that require a hospital to design patient safety systems, work to eliminate errors and openly report medical mistakes.

Hospital Infections

Germs which cause infection can live on practically any conceivable surface. This can include bed rails, stethoscopes, sinks and toilets. The germs may not be harmful until they enter the body, but in a hospital where catheters, intravenous tubes, needles and other health infractions can be present getting an infection can be a real concern. According to the Center for Disease Control, the sixth leading cause of death in America is hospital infections. The CDC Public Health Report published in the April 2007 journal estimates that there are 4.5 hospital infections for every 100 patient admissions and nearly 100,000 deaths from hospital infection. Most infections are caused by unsanitary conditions in the hospital. Unfortunately, it is estimated that up to 60% of staph infections are drug resistant.

If an infection is contracted it does not necessarily mean that medical negligence has occurred. In infection cases it is important to monitor how the hospital followed their infection control plan and if there are other explanations for the infection. Even if the hospital is not at fault for the infection being contracted, they are responsible for treating the infection quickly. In order to prove medical negligence you need to understand how the hospital contributed to the infection. Negligence may have occurred if any of the above steps such as failure to sterilize, wash hands, wear gloves or disinfect were not done properly.

The patient must prove damages. Damages could include lost wages, pain and suffering, medical bills or death. If the person has not suffered damages then there probably is not a basis for a claim of medical malpractice.

If you have had a hospital stay and developed an infection your case should be investigated to determine the specific facts regarding your stay. If you have suffered an illness or injury due to an infection contracted during your hospital stay a personal injury attorney should be contacted to review your medical malpractice case. It can be difficult to review all the possible methods which an infection could have been contracted with out the help of an expert in the medical profession. A personal injury attorney familiar with medical malpractice law can help gather evidence and provide experts familiar with infection control. A personal injury attorney can also be helpful in determining the statute of limitations for your medical malpractice case. The statute of limitations could vary based on your injuries and the state where you live. If you have any questions regarding your medical injury, fill out the evaluation form for a free consultation from a medical malpractice attorney.