Millions of Americans receive complicated surgeries and procedures every week, and it seems like a large number of these end up in some kind of medical mishap, resulting in significant lawsuits and a lot of distress for the patient and their loved ones.
But just what are your odds of falling victim to medical negligence like this? Is it rare or is it something that you need to worry about and that the healthcare system needs to fix?
Your Odds of Being Involved in a Medical Mishap
According to a 2016 study by Johns Hopkins, a quarter of a million people die every year as a result of medical mishaps, making it the third biggest killer in the United States.
You won’t see it on official lists of causes of death, of course, because if a person has surgery for heart disease or cancer and they die as a result of a mishap, official records will show their death as resulting from heart diseases or cancer. But regardless of what the records say, that’s a staggering statistic and means that 1 in 10 deaths could be the result of a medical error.
How True is This?
The aforementioned Johns Hopkin study isn’t the only one to have been conducted on this issue. There are others that place the number as high as 440,000, which would be more than 20% of total deaths in the US.
Some of these end up in the hands of a wrongful death attorney or a medical malpractice attorney, but it is possible that many of them are going unreported.
These deaths are not always the fault of the operating surgeon and they don’t always occur on the operating table. They can be anything from computing errors to an adverse effect that was preventable. In other words, it includes everything from surgeons who mistakenly severe arteries (which we’re using as an example and hope is rare) to nurses who prescribe the wrong medication, overlook allergies, or fail to spot a diagnosis.
All of these things still fall under the umbrella of medical negligence. They can, and often do, result in hefty lawsuits, but that’s clearly not doing anything to stem the flow of medical mistakes.
Who Is To Blame?
Human error plays a role here. If you’re a nurse, surgeon or a doctor then you’re working a high-stress job that requires long hours. You’re tired, overworked, and yet you’re in a position where a single mistake can cost a life.
If you’re an IT technician and you make a mistake after working long hours then it may result in a few deleted files and the need reach for a backup disk. If you’re a writer or designer, it’s nothing more than a few edits can’t fix when you’ve had a little rest. As a healthcare professional there may not be a fix and there may not be time to rest and deal with it tomorrow.
We’re all human, we all make mistakes, but when you work in healthcare those mistakes can be deadly.
For this, we have to blame the system. There are reports of many hospitals putting under-skilled staff in charge of roles that require an experienced head, such as the handling and distribution of medication. In fact, one report found that rather than educated and experienced pharmacists being in control, many hospitals put pharmacy technicians in control of this task, and most states don’t have laws requiring these technicians to prove their capabilities and their competency.
There are also countless reports of workers being pushed to their limits and asked to work long hours. It’s chaos, and it’s no wonder that so many people are losing their lives in the midst of it all.