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Preventable medical errors: the third leading cause of death

Although cancer and heart disease are leading causes of death in the United States, readers may be surprised to learn the third highest cause: preventable medical errors. Specifically, over 400,000 people die each year in hospitals across the country from this cause. 

So exactly what is preventable medical error? An attorney that focuses on medical malpractice litigation knows that errors can take many forms, and the setting is not always on an operating table. Indeed, negligence can be committed during a doctor’s first communications with a patient if proper record keeping is not made during the intake, or if the patient’s entire medical history and allergies are not recorded. 

Yet a recent study also points to another culprit: lack of respect. According to the study results, the rate of preventable medical errors was two and a half times more likely in patients who felt like they didn’t receive respect from hospital staff. Around one-quarter of the study respondents indicated that hospital staff didn’t always allow them to be involved in their own care; and about one-third stated that medical staff did not always honor their treatment preferences or fully listen to them.

The results are especially disturbing considering that patients have greater access to medical information than ever before. Some medical facilities allow patients to access their electronic medical records online, and a variety of smartphone and tablet apps allow patients to research conditions by symptoms. 

Every patient deserves to be treated with respect. Indeed, an attorney might argue that it would be negligent for any hospital staff to ignore a competent patient’s description of his or her own symptoms. If this treatment sounds familiar and resulted in injury to you or a loved one, don’t delay in consulting with an attorney. Our firm specializes in medical malpractice and can advise you of your options.

Source: Forbes, "Consumer Reports Study: Demanding Respect From Doctors May Save Your Life," Robert J. Szczerba, January 19, 2015

Source: National Public Radio, “Imagining A Future When The Doctor's Office Is In Your Home,” Nancy Shute, Jan. 12, 2015

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