Five Medical Mistakes That May Shock You

When you enter a hospital for a medical procedure, you trust that you are in good hands. After all, what could go wrong? It turns out a lot. Medical mistakes happen every day in hospitals and they kill more than a quarter million people every year in the United States. Even worse, some of the mistakes are shockingly negligent.

  • Treating the wrong patient. Make sure the hospital staff checks your name, birth date, and barcode on your bracelet. Be especially vigilant if you have a common name — patients with similar names are often confused by hospital staff.
  • Operating on the wrong body part. We’ve all heard the horror stories of the man who had the wrong leg amputated. The information can be incorrectly entered in a patient’s chart. A surgeon can misread the chart in haste. Staff members doing the surgical draping can obscure the mark showing the location of the operation. Make sure the correct body part is marked and reaffirm just before surgery. Don’t feel embarrassed to do so.
  • Medical equipment left inside the body. Remember the Seinfeld episode where Kramer spits out a Junior Mint while watching an operation? It falls inside the open body cavity and the surgeon sews up the body unaware of it. While that scenario is far fetched, surgeons do leave tools inside the body after surgery. Surgical staff may miscount equipment used during surgery and the missing equipment isn’t noticed. If you experience unexpected pain, fever, or swelling after your surgery, report it to your doctor immediately and insist it is checked out.
  • Losing the patient. Patients with certain types of mental disorders like dementia or autism are prone to wandering away. If your family member suffers from one of these disorders, remain extra vigilant. Make sure the hospital staff is aware of the condition and try to have family members remain at the hospital to help monitor the whereabouts of your loved one.
  • Waking up during surgery. This is a horrifying mistake that occurs when an under-dose of anesthesia is used. Fortunately, most patients aren’t in pain when this happens, but they can feel when the surgeon cuts and moves internal body parts around. Ask your anesthesiologist to check that your anesthetic dosage is right for you.

The harm from medical errors is often avoidable. Having a trusted family member or friend with you to serve as your advocate when you are under the influence of medications in the hospital is one of many strategies you can use to help the doctors and nurses keep you safe. However, if you are the victim of a medical mistake, consult a knowledgeable medical malpractice attorney to help you determine the options available to you.

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