North Carolina readers may have heard about a recent Johns Hopkins University report that claims that nearly 200,000 Americans die from medical errors each year. Based on that estimate, medical error is among the leading causes of death in the U.S. Another recent study by the Department of Health and Human Services found that around 29 percent of Medicare patients experienced some form of harm during hospital stays.
Some mistakes happen because doctors show poor judgment or make bad decisions. However, studies show that most mistakes are caused by system failures, including lack of communication between medical staff, medication errors and mistakes during patient transfers between hospital units.
There are several ways that patients can protect themselves during a hospital stay. First, experts recommend patients take the time to educate themselves on their medical problems. This includes reading up on the best treatment options and understanding possible complications. Second, patients should ask their doctor questions in order to understand the treatment plan and goals. Get a second opinion if necessary. Third, patients should question every treatment and medication given while in the hospital. They should understand what a medication is for and any possible side effects that could occur. If a patient is too ill to advocate for themselves, a friend or family member should be present to ask questions on their behalf.
Medical errors can cause short-term and long-term harm to patients. In some cases, they can even cause a patient's death. Individuals who have suffered harm from a medical mistake may have grounds to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the negligent doctor and/or hospital. If a family loses a loved one to a medical error, they may wish to speak to an attorney about their legal options.