Injuries and fatalities from preventable hospital errors are much more common than you may think. While it is disheartening to know that those who are relied upon to provide treatment for your health care needs can act carelessly, there are several things you can do to help avoid mistakes that could cause serious harm, or even kill you. If you or a loved one has been injured or died because of a hospital error, contact a Suffolk County medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible.
The Prevalence of Hospital Errors in the US
According to a report published by Health Affairs, one-third of hospital admissions result in injury in the United States. These injuries can further complicate a patient’s existing health issues, leading to long-term disability, and even death in some cases. Unfortunately, 90 percent of errors go unreported and 44 percent of identified errors were preventable.
The most common errors made by doctors and hospitals include:
- misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis;
- childbirth injuries;
- medication errors;
- anesthesia errors; and
- surgery errors.
Another study by the Institute of Medicine has estimated that 98,000 Americans die each year to preventable medical errors. Preventable medical errors are the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, after heart disease, cancer, stroke, respiratory disease, and accidents.
Avoiding Hospital Mistakes
As frightening as these statistics are, knowledge is power. Taking a proactive role in your own health care can help reduce the likelihood of medical and hospital errors and even prevent avoidable mistakes:
- Misdiagnosis – Educating yourself is one of the best ways to contend with misdiagnosis. Making your doctor aware of your family’s medical history can make a difference in diagnosis errors. Don’t be afraid to question your doctor’s findings and ask him to speak to you in plain language. Diagnostic equipment and tests can be wrong as well, so bear this in mind when learning of your diagnosis. Obtaining a second opinion may also provide some peace of mind.
- Medication Errors– You have a responsibility to ensure your doctor is aware of other medications, dietary supplements, and over-the-counter drugs you are taking. This includes providing information about any allergies you may have. The doctor has a responsibility to obtain informed consent from you. He must communicate to a patient all the known risks of taking a medication, and provide the patient an opportunity to refuse treatment. Request a written copy of the drug’s adverse effects.
- Surgery Errors– Surgery mistakes can include wrong procedures, wrong patient, and wrong surgery site. Prior to surgery, meet with your doctor and surgeon to make sure everyone agrees on the procedure and what it will entail. Surgeons are also required to mark the site of surgery while the patient is still awake. If it is possible, carefully select the hospital that will be the site of the surgery; selecting a hospital that has a high success rate for the same procedure needed can help limit the risk of surgery error.
- Hospital-Acquired Infections– According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1.7 million Americans contract infections while staying at a hospital. You have a right to ask and insist that health care workers wash their hands before touching you. Not shaving prior to surgery can help protect against bacteria as well. While undergoing surgery, keeping your body warm will help stave off germs; ask your surgeon if they can raise the temperature of the operating room. Avoid prolonged stays at the hospital if possible, since the longer you are there, the more likely you will contract an infection.
Other ways to Protect Yourself from Mistakes
The following are four other simple ways to keep you safe from medical errors:
- If you have questions or concerns, you have a right to be informed.
- Bring a friend or family member with you because they may be more objective about the level of care you receive.
- Make sure every doctor or health care worker knows about your condition. Don’t assume they have all consulted your health records.
- Do some of your own research on your symptoms and investigate possible alternatives to the diagnosis you received. There may be other treatment options available.
Contact a Suffolk County Medical Malpractice Lawyer after a Hospital Error
You do have recourse if you have suffered a preventable injury while seeking hospital treatment. The law offices of Gacovino, Lake & Associates represent clients in a variety of medical malpractice cases. From birth injury, medical errors, and nursing home abuse, our team of attorneys are dedicated to rectifying the wrongs committed against you. Located in New York, we represent medical malpractice cases nationwide. Contact us today at 1-800-246-HURT (4878) to schedule a complimentary consultation.