There are just over 22,000 preventable hospital deaths every year in the United States, a recent study by Yale School of Medicine reveals. This figure indicates previous estimates of 44,000-98,000 are as much as two to four times too high. Some studies have also put the number of deaths due to malpractice at 250,000 a year, which would make medical error the third leading cause of death, following cancer and heart disease. Medical malpractice typically involves diagnostic errors, surgical errors, and poor monitoring of medical conditions.
A more accurate approach
“We still have work to do, but statements like ‘the number of people who die unnecessarily in hospitals is equal to a jumbo jet crash every day’ are clearly exaggerated,” said study author Benjamin Rodwin, assistant professor of internal medicine at Yale. The reason for such contrasting estimates? Rodwin said past studies typically look at hospital patients who experienced any sort of adverse incident (like wrong diagnosis or delayed treatment) and then determine how many harmful and preventable errors were made. According to the Yale researchers, this method allows for greater potential bias and error. Their study takes a different, more accurate approach. They looked at hospital deaths and worked backward to identify the root cause and if they were avoidable.
A look at some of the worst cases
Comedian Dana Carvey almost died twice after heart surgery as surgeons bypassed the wrong artery. Emergency surgery was required to fix the damage. The surgeon called the incident “an honest mistake”, but Carvey sued for $7.5 million. Another incident occurred in 2007 when surgeons at Rhode Island Hospital operated on the wrong part of a patients’ brain three separate times. The hospital was reprimanded and received a $50,000 fine as a result. However, again that same year, the surgical team operated on the wrong side of another patient’s head, resulting in their death several weeks later. And, if you didn’t think it could get any worse, thousands of patients every year experience anesthetic awareness: being completely awake during surgery, but unable to move or speak. In 2006, Sherman Sizemore, an elderly West Virginia pastor, remained conscious for the first 16 minutes of surgery as the drugs weren’t delivered properly. He committed suicide two weeks later.
Coping with malpractice
Experiencing medical malpractice can be a devastating time for patients who may sustain new physical complications, extended recovery times, and potentially lifelong injuries or disabilities. Fortunately, patients can file a lawsuit to help them win financial compensation to cover expenses like past, current, and future medical bills, other associated expenses, and lost wages, as well as emotional pain and suffering. However, medical malpractice cases are complex. Medical malpractice lawyers can work on the patent’s behalf to build their case. A trusted and experienced legal team can navigate the legal complexities, while the patient focuses on recovery with greater peace of mind.
Medical errors, although potentially not as widespread as initially thought, are a common phenomenon. Fortunately, medical malpractice law can help patients win compensation after experiencing malpractice and get their lives back on track.