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The Sobering Realities of Medical Errors

The findings of a study about medical errors that was published in the September 2013 issue of the Journal of Patient Safety, was cause for major concern among many Americans. In the study, researchers from Patient Safety America reported that medical errors contribute to the deaths of more than 400,000 people in the U.S. every year.

One mother’s tragic story of how she lost her nine-year-old daughter, serves as a solemn reminder of the devastating outcomes that may result from medical errors. Shortly after being diagnosed with leukemia, the young girl was hospitalized. A week after being admitted to the hospital, the girl’s condition began to rapidly decline and she died after those health care professionals who were entrusted with her care failed to recognize signs that she was suffering from a severe infection.

This tragic story is just one of many that play out in hospital and emergency rooms throughout the country and in states like Florida. Health care providers are often guilty of poor communication, latching on to an incorrect diagnosis and failing to listen to a patient and his or her family members. Consequently, the health and very lives of patients are put in jeopardy as errors related to medications and misdiagnosis go unnoticed and unreported.

While the recent estimates that some 400,000 deaths are tied to medical errors is alarming, in reality, the actual number is likely much higher. Despite improvements to how medical errors are reported and tracked, at many hospitals, the subject remains taboo. For hospitals, doctors and nurses; the personal and professional costs associated with openly admitting to making a medical mistake are significant; engendering a culture of secrecy and denial about the subject.

Source: Colorado Public Radio, “For Colorado mom, story of daughter’s hospital death is key to others’ safety,” John Daley, Feb. 17, 2015

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