If you look for information about how many people are affected each year by medical mistakes, you will find widely different figures. Many health care groups have reasons not to highlight these numbers, but some studies place the number of US medical error deaths in the hundreds of thousands each year. At the Weitz Firm, our Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyers want to look at why these medical errors are so prevalent and what you can do if you have been affected by a medical mistake.
Researchers from Johns Hopkins said a few years ago that medical mistakes were the third leading cause of death in the United States. There are, according to researchers, approximately 250,000 preventable medical errors deaths in the US each year. While this report shocked the country, the news that medical mistakes are a serious problem is nothing new.
In 1999, the Institute of Medicine released a report titled “To Err is Human.” The report said, at the time, that up to 98,000 Americans were killed annually due to medical mistakes. Now, a Time Magazine article is asking why the situation has not improved in 20 years.
When the report was released in 1999, Congress mandated the monitoring of progress in efforts to prevent these mistakes. The health care industry made the goal of reducing medical mistakes by 50% within five years. Unfortunately, we are nowhere close to solving the problem, and many would argue that nearly nothing has been done.
The Times article says that there were many smaller measures implemented to enhance patient safety, but that none of the following were done:
For example, a mix-up in medications such as “epinephrine” and “ephedrine,” two vastly different drugs, can and has led to serious patient harm. Technologies meant to simplify patient care, such as connecting devices that fit multiple tubes, can easily lead to mistakes like inadvertently connecting an IV tube to the nasal oxygen cannula.
John Senders was an engineering pioneer looking for ways to improve patient care. He said that “Human error in medicine, and the adverse events that may follow, are problems of psychology and engineering, not of medicine.”
It is time for system-wide change. It has been time for 20 years.
If you or someone you care about has been harmed due to the negligent actions of a medical provider, you need to seek legal assistance immediately. At the Weitz Firm, we are dedicated to helping victims of medical malpractice recover the compensation they deserve, including: