With the ever increasing debate over the cost of medical care, Insurance companies and politicians never miss an opportunity to blame the greedy trail lawyers and an out of control Medical Malpractice system. Well, I would encourage those politicians and statisticians to look at some rather alarming figures, and to learn from said mistakes rather than to cast blame on those who shed light on the problem.
In 1984 the Institute of Medicine estimated that up to 98,000 Americans died each year from medical errors. 30 years later the data says that the number of deaths associated with preventable harm to patients is at more than 400,000 per year.
As noted in The Journal of Patient safety, the cause of Preventable Adverse Events (Medical Malpractice) in hospitals may be separated into the following categories:
- Errors of commission,
- Errors of omission,
- Errors of communication,
- Errors of context, and
- Diagnostic errors
Various Occurring Hospital Errors
In reviewing Medical Malpractice cases the easiest error to detect is an error of commission. This occurs when a mistaken action harms a patient either because it was the wrong action or it was the right action but performed improperly. An example would be where the patient is given the wrong medication or a doctor operates on the wrong body part.
Errors of omission can be detected in medical records when an obvious action was necessary to heal the patient, yet it was not performed at all. This is something we often encounter in stroke malpractice cases, where a patient needs to be given tPA, but, because it was not prescribed, the patient suffers the irreversible effects of a stroke.
Errors of omission because of failure to follow evidence-based guidelines are much more difficult to detect, partly because there are many complex guidelines and also because adverse consequences of failure to follow guidelines may be delayed until after discharge.
Errors of communication can occur between 2 or more providers or between providers and patient. Again, we have handled these types of cases in patients with Stroke symptoms where the Emergency room doctor and treating neurologist did not communicate the signs, symptoms, and medical history.
Contextual errors occur when a physician fails to take into account unique constraints in a patient’s life that could bear on successful, post discharge treatment.
Diagnostic errors resulting in delayed treatment, the wrong treatment, or no effective treatment may also be considered separately, although a small subset of these might be included as errors of commission or omission.
As a Medical Malpractice lawyer in Miami we fight to gain access to discovery of hospital incident reports. However, hospitals tend to fight and guard these reports closely, despite the courts repeated rulings. A helpful site used to compare hospitals is available thru the medicare program.
The reporting of adverse incidents could and should be used as a teaching opportunity. However, the opposite is true Rare is the day when someone will admit error and teach others from his mistake. While to err may be human, to admit it is not.!!!!!