Medical Errors In America’s Hospitals–Should Patients Be Told When They Occur?
We know that medical errors cause significant suffering and cost. If your medical treatment includes an error, you should be informed, but many hospitals still try to mask their mistakes. In fact, some hospitals even fail to discipline doctors who make mistakes, including those that result in patient injury and death.
Until 2005, the Philadelphia-based Medical College of Pennsylvania Hospital (MCP) was regarded for its advanced medical care. However, records indicate that in the 1990s, patients at MCP have suffered significant unnecessary injury and death as a direct result of medical errors. Internal records cite 598 error incidents reported by medical professionals to the hospital administration. Sixty-six of those incidents resulted in death of the patient. Sadly, in some of those cases, patients or survivors were never told that the injuries were caused by medical errors. However, the most shocking revelation is the fact that none of the doctors involved in the incidents was subjected to disciplinary action.
While the MCP is now closed, the reported numbers mirror behavior at other still operating hospitals. Harvard research Lucian Leape has estimated that a million patients nationwide are annually injured by errors during hospital treatment each year and that 120,000 die as a result of these preventable errors. Leape’s 1991 study of patient records in the state of New York concluded that one of every 200 patients admitted to a hospital died as a result of a hospital error. They also state that medical errors reported to hospital authorities represent roughly only 5 to 10 percent of the number of actual medical mistakes at a typical hospital. These numbers are alarming, to say the least.
Unfortunately, in the case of hospitals such as MCP, the absence of transparency results in fewer medical malpractice lawsuits, continued medical errors, and no just compensation for victims and their families. However, there are some instances when hospitals place client safety first. Take, for example, the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Lexington, Kentucky.
The Veterans Affairs Medical Center is a 400-bed hospital that encourages transparency in dealing with medical errors. Their refreshingly tough policy requires that patients and their families be informed of any error, even if the error is noticed well after discharge. While patient health is the primary motivation for this policy, there appears to be an additional benefit. The open and honest policy translates to less risk of malpractice suits. Hospital officials assemble files and take testimony soon after being notified of an incident. Patients and family members are notified. If harm occurs, officials advise the family to hire a lawyer and all parties seek to a quick, just, and fair settlement. The goal is to create a culture in which mistakes are acknowledged and lead to changes that prevent recurrences.
Unfortunately, most hospitals around the country and, more specifically, in Florida continue to avoid transparency with regard to medical errors. Administrators often treat these mistakes as some secret that is to be held back. If you suspect you are victim of medical malpractice, you need to consult with a Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer and if available a Doctor/ Lawyer. At Florida Trial MD, you receive the very best in qualified and experienced medical malpractice representation. You will get the justice and compensation you deserve. Contact us online or call us at 407-244-1212 to schedule a free consultation with our professional staff.