Protect Yourself From Medical Errors

According to a report issued by a federal government task force, somewhere between 44,000 and 98,000 people die each year because of mistakes made by their doctors. Given the silence in the press regarding the number of deaths caused by medical errors each year, it could be called a "silent epidemic."

A "medical mistake" can take several different forms: the failure to properly diagnose a patient's problem; the failure to choose the correct course of action to treat the problem a patient has; or the failure to properly perform the treatment plan chosen. No matter what form a particular mistake takes, all medical mistakes share one characteristic: They can be deadly.

Unfortunately, many patients and family members of victims do not realize that a medical mistake has occurred. All too often, the injury or even the death caused by a medical error is seen as being the result of the patient's original illness, not as the result of a preventable error.

There are a number of causes of medical mistakes. First, the increasing prevalence of HMOs means that patients often are not referred to the appropriate specialist until after their condition has worsened and become more difficult to treat. Second, many doctors (particularly young interns) work long hours. Third, there is a shortage of trained nurses. All of these factors add up to a system in which a number of otherwise preventable injuries and deaths are caused by overworked, exhausted, or inexperienced caregivers.

Adverse drug reactions are another source of medical mistakes. The explosion in the number of prescription drugs available means that doctors often prescribe several drugs to the same patient but have no idea how these prescriptions will interact with each other. Sometimes, adverse reactions will harm or even kill a patient.

All medical mistakes share one characteristic: They can be deadly.

Medical mistakes can be dangerous, but there are some things you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones. Be actively involved in your own care. Ask questions. If you think your doctor may have made a mistake, ask about it. If you still have doubts, get a second and even a third opinion. Pay careful attention to your medications. Read the label and report any ill effect you think the medication might be having on you to your doctor immediately.

If you feel that you or someone you love may have been a victim of a medical mistake, contact us. We will help you determine the best course of legal action. And remember to stay alert. The life you save may be your own.

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