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Preventable hospital errors occur all too frequently

Everyone gets sick. Unfortunately, illness is an unavoidable fact of life. That's what doctors are for. When sickness or injury occurs, you have no choice but to trust in the education, experience and expertise of medical professionals, no matter the expense.

However, despite the high cost you pay for health care from experienced professionals, more than 200,000 people die every year from preventable medical errors. The fact that these mistakes are preventable means that, not only do you have to worry about unavoidable illness or disease hurting the ones you love, you also have to be concerned with whether your doctor is going to make a unnecessary blunder or oversight that injures you or someone you care about!

Common medical mistakes

While some injuries may be unavoidable, there are certain areas in medicine where mistakes occur more frequently. Five common - and preventable - medical errors include:

  • Health care-associated infections: Approximately one out of every 25 patients develops an infection during a hospital stay.
  • Central line infections: Tubes inserted into large veins for delivering fluids or medication create a direct route for bacteria to enter.
  • Medication errors: According to the Institute of Medicine, prescription medication mistakes injure approximately 1.5 million individuals every year.
  • Too many blood transfusions: While red blood cell transfusions are one of the most frequently performed hospital procedures in the United States, the more blood cells a patient receives, the higher the risk for infection, and some studies have found a correlation between the number of procedures and the increased risk of disease and even death.
  • Too much oxygen for premature babies: An oxygen overdose can result in blindness in premature infants.

Preventative measures

It should never be the responsibility of the patient to prevent medical mistakes, but there are some things you can do to help protect yourself against the risks associated with these errors. The easiest is, if you don't see your doctor washing, remind him or her. Likewise, reminding your clinician about a central line may also be key, as studies show that doctors sometimes forget the lines are still inserted; a simple reminder from a patient can mean the treatment team removes it if it is no longer necessary.

When it comes to medication, one of the best things you can do is to be aware. Knowing what you're taking, how much, and why can help you double check every time, to ensure you receive the correct medication in the correct dosage. Likewise, you should also feel free to question the doctor when he or she recommends a blood transfusion. A 2011 study estimated that 60 percent of transfusions were inappropriate, so you shouldn't hesitate to ask the doctor whether this - or any other procedure - is absolutely necessary.

Is there anything else I can do?

Mistakes may be a part of life, but when it comes to the health and well-being of you and your loved ones, you should not have to pay the cost for someone else's oversight. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the doctors. If you or your loved one suffers injury, illness or even death as a result of one of these or any other preventable medical errors, an Ohio attorney with experience in medical malpractice can offer guidance and fight for justice on your behalf.

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