Hospital errors cause at least 200,000 deaths annually

Missouri patients may not know that preventable medical errors that occur in hospitals are the third leading cause of death. An article in the Journal of Patient Safety examined a number of studies and found that somewhere between 200,000 and 400,000 people die each year due to these errors.

In addition to the enormity of loss suffered by families who lose a loved one, there is also a great financial cost. It is estimated that $15 billion to $19 billion is spent each year on prescription drug costs, ancillary services and other aspects of care that result from these mistakes.

The errors may be even more widespread than reports indicate. Patients in one study reported errors rates three times higher than the rates noted in their charts, and physicians were found to be reluctant to report serious mistakes. The mistakes take a number forms, including organ injury during surgery, wrong surgery, misdiagnoses, wound or hospital-acquired infections, communication breakdowns between medical professionals, and other errors.

An error might also happen due to a combination of reasons. For example, one medical professional might fail to note a patient’s weight so that the correct dose of anesthetic can be calculated. There might then be a problem in communication in which the person responsible for the anesthesia does not realize this has not been done and gives the wrong medication dose. The patient then might have a reaction to too much anesthesia. For an individual patient who suffers as a result of a hospital error, the cost can be high. Even if the error can be fixed, the patient may have to endure further treatment, a longer hospital stay and a decline in health. In such an event, the patient may want to meet with a medical malpractice attorney to see what legal remedies may be available.