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Medical Mistakes and Medical Malpractice

People visit hospitals to receive treatment for injuries from recent car accidents, to undergo surgeries, and to seek help for other health issues, but few people expect that medical mistakes could result in death. In 1999, it was estimated that 98,000 people each year died because of medical mistakes in hospitals. Today, according to a study in the Journal of Patient Safety, between 210,000 and over 400,000 patients who go to the hospital to seek treatment and suffer some kind of harm in the hospital that contributes to their death each year.

What Mistakes Are Causing These Deaths?

Statistics show that medical mistakes resulting in the death of a patient become more and more common each year. But what causes these deaths? According to an article from the American Medical Association,

  • 106,000 deaths caused by negative effects of drugs,
  • 80,000 caused by infections in hospitals,
  • 12,000 due to unnecessary surgery,
  • 7,000 caused by medication errors, and
  • 20,000 caused by other hospital errors.

These deaths devastate so many family members and friends but in addition to the loss, there is a financial consequence to these losses that amounts to approximately $1 trillion a year in the United States.

What Are The Types of Medical Mistakes?


Unfortunately, no simple answer to this question. Hospitals have been trying to solve this problem over the last two decades. One of the major causes is categorized as “medical errors.” Medical errors include:

  • lapses in judgment, skill, or coordination of care,
  • mistaken diagnoses,
  • system failures,
  • failures to rescue dying patients, and
  • preventable complications of care.

Martin Makary states in a report he co-wrote for Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine that “There has just been a higher degree of tolerance for variability in practice than you would see in other industries.” He uses an example of when passengers get on a plane that there’s a standard way attendants move around, talk to them and prepare them for flight. However, hospitals have yet to put standardization into place.

What Can I Do to Prevent Medical Mistakes?

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, patients can take several steps to try to reduce the possibility of medical mistakes when taking prescription medicines.

  • Make sure that all of your doctors know about every medicine you are taking.
  • Bring all of your medicines and supplements to your doctor visits.
  • Make sure your doctor knows about any allergies and adverse reactions you have had to medicines.
  • When your doctor writes a prescription for you, make sure you can read it.
  • Ask for information about your medicines.
  • Make sure with your pharmacist that you are receiving the correct medicine prescribed by your doctor
  • If you have any questions about the directions on your medicine labels, ask.
  • Ask your pharmacist for the best device to measure your liquid medicine.
  • Ask for written information about the side effects your medicine could cause.

Here are a few tips when you’re at a hospital or going in for surgery:

  • If you are in a hospital, consider asking all health care workers who will touch you whether they have washed their hands.
  • Ask your doctor to explain the treatment plan you will follow at home when you are being discharged from the hospital.
  • If you are having surgery, make sure that everyone (you, your doctor, and your nurses) are all on the same page of what is being done.
  • If you have a choice, choose a hospital where many patients have had the procedure or surgery you need.

What Do I Do If I Think I or a Family Member Was Affected By a Medical Mistake?

First, talk to an experienced lawyer to help you understand if the facts of your case may be medical malpractice. Medical malpractice is a very complicated field of law and it takes a professional, like the attorneys at the Law Offices of R.F. Wittmeyer, Ltd. to help determine if your case constitutes medical malpractice. If you or a family member has been affected by a medical mistake or has died due to a medical mistake, contact the Law Offices of R.F.Wittmeyer, Ltd. today for a free consultation.

Medical malpractice in Illinois occurs when a healthcare professional, doctor, or institution breaches its standard of care when treating you. Standard of care is considered the generally accepted set of standards and practices that any other medical professional would undertake if treating a patient. Many variables determine this standard practice, but this concepts constitutes the crux of the case. Additionally, this medical negligence must result in an injury to you and you must prove that the medical professional directly caused your injuries.

Unfortunately, health care has been focused on information technology improvements, but these IT improvements have not improved patient safety. And due to this, people can end up dying not from the disease that causes them to go to the hospital, but from the care that they receive in the hospital.

R.F. Wittmeyer

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