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Preventable Hospital Deaths?

Posted on Friday, November 17th, 2017 at 6:15 am    

If you were casually asked what you thought was the leading cause of death in the United States, you would probably think of things like car accidents, heart attack, cancer, stroke and homicide. You would be right, at least for the first three, but were you aware that right up there with the first three were preventable hospital deaths? That’s right. 440,000 people are estimated to die every year across the country from mistakes that have happened in hospitals. Mistakes, errors, call them what you will, medical negligence would be a more accurate legal term. That’s an absolutely staggering number of people who die every year because of decisions that have been made which were wrong.

The number has been quoted in the Journal of Patient Safety, which reports that the number of people that die from what it calls preventable adverse errors (PAEs) represents a sixth of the national annual death count.

Example of a typical PAE

There are a large number of PAEs, so it is impossible to generalize. Medical negligence may happen at any stage of the chain of medical service in a hospital. It could be a nurse, a doctor, a hospital pharmacist, or a surgeon. It could even be a medical orderly. One example given below illustrates a typical example of a fatal PAE.

A 55 year old man noticed that he had shortness of breath and chest pains. He decided to go straight to a specialist cardiac hospital where he was admitted and kept under observation overnight. He received oxygen to help him breathe and supplementary medication. However, it seems that he did not respond to the treatment as expected. Rather than relaying his deteriorating condition, the nurse delayed communicating with the result being that the man’s heart suffered from progressive failure to the point where his chances of survival were reduced from a probable 90% to 20%. A cardiologist later said that had the deteriorating condition been properly reported, the man had a chance of being operated on sooner. In fact, he died the next day during surgery.

Under reporting the norm

The figure the Journal of Patient Safety came up with (440,000) has been derived from a known 220,000 and doubled to take into account under reporting. Not all hospital errs, of course, end up in a death, so there must be a much larger number of non fatal errors that may, or may not be detected. According to the study described in the Journal, patients themselves report three times as many PAEs as do hospital staff judging by what is recorded on the patients’ medical records. The report suggests that many doctors are reluctant to report PAEs, with cardiologists being particularly likely to do this.

The most common PAEs include the following:

  • adverse drug reactions;
  • blood clots in deep veins;
  • infections acquired in the hospital itself;
  • incorrect diagnosis;
  • incorrect surgical procedure;
  • incorrect medication, either the wrong drug altogether, the wrong dosage or the wrong combination;
  • respiratory distress during or after surgery;
  • surgical instruments or swabs left inside a patient’s body during surgery;
  • wound infection after surgery;
  • suture opening up after surgery.

No-one expects to emerge from a hospital worse than when they went in, but it does happen a lot more than many of us would like. There is no excuse for medical negligence and that’s why a medical negligence lawsuit helps to remind medical personnel and the institutions they work in that they must keep to high standards. 440,000 preventable deaths a year in hospitals across the U.S. is 440.000 too many.

A medical negligence lawsuit is not just a punitive measure. It is primarily designed to compensate the person who is the victim of medical negligence. A successful lawsuit can help to reverse the damage done while in hospital, compensate for lost earnings and the pain and suffering experienced.

For families of those who have died in hospital from a PAE, a wrongful death lawsuit can help to compensate financially for losses as a result of the untimely death of a loved one.

Talk to a medical negligence lawyer at the Patino Law Office in McAllen Texas, if you, or a loved one, have been the recent victim of medical negligence in a McAllen hospital, ring 956-631-3535.