Medical Errors: The Prevalence, The Dangers And What Can Be Done To Improve

This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

If you or a loved one has ever been seriously injured or ill, you probably understand how important it is to have a doctor and care that you can trust. Putting your own well-being or the well-being of a family member in the hands of another person is a great leap of faith. Though most trained and experienced doctors are phenomenal at their occupations, they are still human. Errors – in any occupation – are possible, and that does not change in the case of doctors.

A Johns Hopkins study suggests that medical errors are now the third leading cause of death in the United States. This leaves more than 250,000 deaths per year in the last eight years being caused by some kind of medical error.

Interestingly, in 2013, with a total of 611,105 fatalities, the leading cause of death was heart disease. Cancer came in second with 584,881. Third was originally chronic respiratory disease with 149,205. However, when new calculations came into the foreground, it was determined that the third leading cause of death in the U.S. was medical error.

What Kinds Of Errors Are Prevalent?

Misdiagnosis – When a doctor misses or overlooks the actual issue with a patient, precious time is often wasted. The window may be missed for medication or treatment that could have helped their situation initially.

Medication Errors – There are a couple of different ways errors in medication are possible. It’s possible that the doctor misdiagnoses the injury or illness from the get-go, thus prescribing the wrong medicine. It’s also possible that the incorrect medicine was administered though the prescription itself was correct.

Anesthesia Errors – Errors in anesthesia administration can be much more dangerous than other medical errors. Any tiny mistake can make a huge impact that could lead to brain damage, permanent injury and sometimes death.

Surgery Errors – When performing surgery, it’s possible that they could accidentally make contact with another internal organ and splice into it unintentionally. Even a knick in a key organ can make an impact. While of course doctors have years and years of training and practice, human error exists in everyone.

According to Powers & Santola, even when we receive the best medical care possible, things are still capable of going wrong. It’s important for you to get the compensation you deserve if medical malpractice has occurred and led to harm.

How Can We Do to Improve?

While ultimately your doctor should be keeping you safe during treatment or surgery, it’s important that as a patient, you do all that you can to ensure this as well. By making sure your doctors know about medicine you’re currently taking, they can be sure that nothing further they prescribe will counteract with it and cause adverse effects. You should also make sure your doctor knows about any allergies you may have. Be sure that you’re able to read the medicine on the prescription, and that you’re aware of any possible side effects. Additionally, if you’re undergoing surgery, it’s important to know that you and your doctor are on the same page about what will be done.