There are approximately 98,000 deaths per year in the United States caused by medical malpractice - people going to the doctor or hospital expecting to be healed and ending up dead. Further studies have shown that 46% of medical malpractice cases happen because of misdiagnosis. Approximately 1.14 million patient safety incidents took place among hospitalized medicare patients from 2000 - 2002. With statistics like these patients should be alarmed and alert when going to the doctor or hospital.
It is a sad state of affairs when as US Citizens, one of the greatest countries on earth, we can no longer trust doctors or our health care system. It is sad but absolutely true. These statistics are more than numbers to me - they are personal. I have personally experienced 4 separate situations this year where doctors and hospitals did not do their job and put the patients needs last. Here are their stories:
- Pregnancy. The pregnant woman started having contractions during her fifth month. The doctor put her on restricted duty, gave her medication and said that sometimes contractions are caused by a bladder infection. He never tested for an infection and at 8 months pregnant the contractions escalated prompting a visit to the ER where the baby was in danger and distress. The cause - a bladder infection.
- Seizure. A man in his fifties fell down on the cement outside of his home convulsing in a seizure. His head was severely cut, blood was everywhere, he could not walk, and was in and out of being lucid. He was transported to the hospital where they did a scan then went to discharge him within two hours. He was still bloody. They did not know what caused the seizure. He could not walk. They still sent him home. Fortunately he had family to care for him. Otherwise without being lucid or able to take care of himself he probably would not have made it.
- Surgery. A woman in her twenties had gallbladder problems requiring surgery. She was operated on and afterwords the doctor reported that the surgery went fine without complication. They tried to discharge her the next day but she was in so much pain that she waited an extra day. When they did discharge her she kept saying something was wrong but no one listened. Once home her pain escalated until she was throwing up uncontrollably and shaking. The ambulance was called and she was rushed to a different hospital where they discovered internal bleeding due to the surgeon clipping another area during the surgery. It took two additional surgeries to fix that mistake.
- Heart Attack. A woman in her fifties experienced severe chest pain. The medics were called and they determined that it was a heart attack. She was taken to the emergency room where they hooked her up to machines for monitoring. During the "monitoring" the machine kept beeping so the nurses would turn off the noise and walk away. After two hours they came in and said they would discharge her. The family asked them to look at the charts because the machine indicated problems. Upon looking at the charts the doctor said he changed his mind and she needed to stay in the hospital. He did not know because the nurses and the doctor did not bother to check the reports prior to releasing her.
Each one of these patients was a different age, had different types of insurance, and went to different hospitals. Each patient suffered due to neglect from the doctors and health professionals that were supposed to help them. This is not a growing concern in the US. This is an immediate problem that needs to be fixed before more people suffer or die. The New England Journal of Medicine reported that 100% of doctors in high risk specialties could expect to have medical malpractice claims filed against them. While doctors are not perfect the idea that they can expect to make errors large enough to be sued concerns me. We should live in a world where doctors provide patients with the care they need rather than the care dictated by policy and insurance companies. In the meantime be careful and stay informed because what you don't know will hurt you.