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Studies suggest more must be done to prevent medical errors

According to a study published in The BMJ, around 10 percent of all deaths across the U.S. each year are caused by medical errors. That amounts to approximately 685 deaths every day and 250,000 deaths every year, many of which occur in North Carolina hospitals.

Non-life threatening medical errors are also a major problem. On May 12, the Betsy Lehman Center for Patient Safety and Medical Error Reduction released a report on cataract surgery errors in Massachusetts. Over a one-year period, investigators discovered cases where the wrong eye was treated, the wrong lens was inserted and anesthesia was improperly administered. They also found that many of the mistakes were preventable.

The report suggested several ways to prevent cataract surgery errors, and the recommendations are applicable to all medical procedures and settings. According to the investigators, health care institutions must make error prevention a top priority and include doctors and medical staff in the development of patient safety programs. Facilities should also adhere to a standardized set of protocols and engage patients in meaningful informed consent processes. Institutions should continuously assess their patient safety systems for emerging risks and possible improvements.

Families who lose a loved one to a fatal medical error may want to speak with an attorney about the advisability of filing a medical malpractice lawsuit against the responsible practitioner or facility. Such an action could bring needed financial compensation for the losses that have been incurred, including funeral and burial expenses as well as the loss of contributions the decedent made to the household expenses.

Source: Fierce Healthcare, "Medical errors: 5 system-wide changes that can prevent patient harm," Ilene MacDonald, May 13, 2016

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Daniel Pleasant Holoman LLP

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