Heart disease kills over 600,000 Americans each year, while cancer kills almost 600,000. What may be shocking to many Americans is that disease is not the next in line when it comes to causing death. Medical errors have recently become the third leading cause of death in the United States, killing over 250,000 Americans each year. This dangerous statistic shows that too many people are dying from the treatment they receive rather than the condition they are being treated for.
Deaths from medical errors are preventable, and minimizing risks to patients is often a matter of acknowledging those risks and taking the right steps to counteract them.
Most common medical errors
Although hundreds of thousands of people die from medical errors each year, may more suffer from the effects of medical errors even if the error does not cause a fatality. Awareness and education are an important tool in the patient’s arsenal to help prevent medical errors.
- Medication errors – The wrong drug, dose or combination can cause a deadly reaction in some patients. Almost 1.5 million Americans are hurt each year by medication errors that are preventable. Patients can minimize risks by asking as many questions as possible whenever a new medication is prescribed.
- Excessive transfusion – One of the most common procedures performed in hospitals in the United States are red blood cell transfusions, although statistics show that many of them may be unnecessary. The risks of infection go up with every transfusion. Patients should always question why a transfusion is necessary before receiving one.
- Oxygen in premature babies – There is a fine line between too much oxygen and not enough, and that balance is hard to find in premature babies. An excess of oxygen in these little ones can cause blindness. Clinicians should base the oxygen given on the baby’s weight, as such a small thing can have long-lasting ramifications for a family.
- Infections – Hospitals should be clean, sterile places, but this is not always the case. For every 25 patients who go to the hospital, one comes home with an infection. Always remind health care workers to wash hands or wear gloves before treating you or a loved one.
- Central line infections – Bacteria has a straight path into the bladder or blood with central line tubes inserted in larger veins. Patients should always remind clinicians that lines should be removed if they feel it has been forgotten.
Medical errors are serious mistakes, even if the patient does not die. The suffering that comes from a medical error can last a lifetime. If you or someone you love is dealing with a medical error, we encourage you to speak to an attorney as quickly as possible.