The widespread problem of preventable medical errors

Negligent hospital and doctor mistakes that result in the serious injury or death of a patient should never happen, but unfortunately they happen thousands of times a year in North Carolina and the rest of the country. Mistakes that range from wrong diagnoses, to botched surgeries, to unsanitary conditions leading to infections are just a few of the many ways that a patient can suffer as a result of a hospital error.

Shockingly, hospital mistakes contribute to the deaths of as many as 440,000 patients a year, according to KCUR. The problem is so widespread that medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the U.S. Only heart disease and cancer kill more people annually.

Medical mistakes can lead to months or years of suffering for victims

If a patient isn't killed by a hospital mistake, he or she can suffer for a long time after a procedure without knowing what's wrong, says USA Today. One of the most common ways for a patient to receive a serious surgical injury is by having surgical instruments accidentally left inside the body.

While this type of mistake should never happen, it does happen about a dozen times a day in hospitals across the country. Usually the implements are cotton surgical sponges, which can get infected and entangled inside a patient's internal tissues. The problem happens often enough and costs enough - an average of $60,000 for each case - that Medicare denies payment to for follow-up surgeries and treatments.

According to a USA Today article, one woman had a surgical sponge left inside her abdomen after her c-section. When she suffered weeks of unexplained pain and swelling, followed by her bowels shutting down, emergency x-rays revealed the problem. After doctors removed the infected sponge, she was told it could be deadly to attempt to have another child. Surgical instruments left inside the body can cause excruciating pain, scarring, infections and even death.

Other common hospital mistakes include operating on the wrong body part, treating the wrong patient, hospital infections and waking up during surgery, according to CNN. Some ways to help prevent hospital mistakes from occurring include:

  • Asking doctors and nurses to wash their hands before any procedure or checkup.
  • Ensuring staff thoroughly checks the information on wristbands before administering medication or performing other tasks.
  • Reviewing an upcoming procedure with doctors, including the type and place of surgery, and anesthesia to be used.
  • Calling a doctor immediately if unexpected pain, fever or swelling occurs after a surgery.

Contacting an attorney

Despite the best precautions, medical mistakes can't always be prevented. Patients or families who have suffered as a result of a hospital error should contact an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss their options. They may be eligible to receive compensation for their medical expenses.