Medical mistakes happen, but you can reduce your risks

The medical profession strives to limit the number of errors, but doctors and nurses are prone to human err. Even the most highly trained and diligent medical professional may miss a critical step.
Medical malpractice may occur when physicians, nurses or hospitals do not meet their reasonable duty of care toward the patient.

In one Pennsylvania hospital, a woman was scheduled for surgery on her left eye to relieve pressure on a blocked vein. Instead, a surgeon operated on her healthy right eye.

Following the surgery, the patient’s eyesight further deteriorated. The woman is no longer able to live on her own and splits her time between her children’s homes. Subsequent surgeries failed to improve her eyesight.

This is just one type of surgical error – wrong site surgery. These mistakes often happen when things move too quickly in the operating room. To reduce their occurrence most hospitals use checklists that may include verifying the surgical site with the patient, actually marking the correct site on the patient’s body and a “time-out” before the start of surgery to make sure all medical staff understand their duties.

The Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority tracks the number of surgeries performed on the wrong site or wrong patient. So far, in 2012, medical facilities reported 20 such surgeries. While this translates to about one mistake for 100,000 surgeries, there are steps you can take to avoid injury caused by
Pennsylvania surgical errors.

What can you do to prevent medical mistakes?

Nationwide medical mistakes claim as many as 98,000 lives each year. A review of Medicare patients, found that one in seven patients experienced some kind of harm that extended their hospital stay.

A few tips relate to scheduling elective surgeries. Avoid elective surgery on Friday and weekends. Also, try to skip the month of July. A recent study found a ten percent spike in fatalities at teaching hospitals during the month of July. Researchers speculate this coincides with the start of medical residencies.

If you have the ability to select a hospital for a procedure, ask about infection rates. Also, bring in your actual prescription bottles. Physicians are less likely to make a prescription mistake when they see what you take.

Before a surgery, it is a good idea to obtain a surgery plan. While you are conscious, have the surgeon mark on your body the location for incisions. This can reduce the chances of a wrong site mistake.

Several other tips include:

  • Ask questions during shift changes. Going over your chart with the nurse finishing a shift and meeting the new nurse can avoid mix-ups.
  • Request that visitors and staff wash their hands to avoid dangerous infections.
  • Get help walking if you feel unsteady. Hospital falls are a common cause of serious injury.

While hospital facilities aim to reduce all medical mistakes, they are not there yet. If the negligence of a hospital or medical professional causes you to suffer an injury during your stay in the hospital, contact a Pennsylvania medical negligence attorney. These claims are complex and generally require expert analysis. An experienced lawyer can review your individual circumstances and assist you in seeking compensation for injuries.