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Skilled Legal Teams Uncover Hospital Negligence
Warning: Hospitals may be hazardous to your health.
A Tampa man wakes up after an operation to discover that surgeons amputated the wrong leg. A 4-year-old New York City girl bleeds to death after her tonsils are removed. An 8-year-old boy from Denver dies after his anesthesiologist falls asleep during surgery. Rare instances? Exceptions to the rule? Hardly.
A 2013 study published in the Journal of Patient Safety estimates that 210,000 to 440,000 hospital patients die each year from preventable medical errors. That ranks medical errors as the third leading cause of death in the United States after heart disease and cancer. The cost to society is ballistic: nearly $1 trillion per year due to additional medical costs, productivity losses and shortened life spans.
How can a crisis like this exist in a country that boasts almost monthly breakthroughs in medical science and spends more per man-woman-child on health care than any nation on the planet? Regrettably, more than a decade after the Institute of Medicine first issued its wake-up call on medical errors in the report To Err Is Human, there is still no comprehensive plan in place to check the medical malpractice epidemic.
We do know that malpractice isn't caused by "bad apples" working in health care. Rather, it is clear to us that faulty systems, processes and conditions are what lead good people to make bad mistakes. We also know that you, the good citizen, must be vigilant when undergoing medical treatment.
Survive Your Next Hospital Stay
The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organization (JCAHO) urges patients to Speak Up and take a more active role in preventing medical mess-ups. Why? Research shows that "squeaky wheels" are more likely to have successful outcomes.
- Speak up, ask questions and ask again if you don't understand
- Pay attention; get the right treatments and medication by the right people, and don't assume anything!
- Educate yourself about your diagnosis, medical tests and treatment plan.
- Ask a family member to be there as your advocate.
- Know what medications you take and why. Medication errors are among the most common health care slip-ups.
- Use a hospital or other health care organization that has undergone rigorous on-site evaluation.
- Participate aggressively in all decisions about your treatment.
More Health Care Survival Tips
Make sure doctors know everything you are taking, including prescription and over-the-counter drugs, vitamins and herbs. Mention any past allergies or adverse reactions. And make sure you can read your doctor's prescription … because if you can't, chances are the pharmacist can't either!
Check on a hospital before checking in. If you can, choose a hospital and surgeon with a proven track record in the procedure you need. Ask anyone who has physical contact with you if they have washed their hands. And at discharge, make sure you understand your home treatment plan.
You're the quarterback of your own healthcare team. So make sure your doctor and your surgeon have the same game plan. Ask if your surgeon will perform the entire operation, and ask if there are options to surgery.