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Medical mistakes cost 440,000 lives every year

It is estimated that more than 440,000 people die as a result of medical mistakes in U.S. hospitals every year. Preventable errors like foreign objects left in patients' bodies, tumors left undetected and wrong medication prescription doses account for many such mistakes. However, a physician who is trying to improve safety at the University of Illinois, Chicago, reports that more errors being reported means that there are more chances to fix the situations that caused the errors to begin with.

Eliminating medical errors has proven to be difficult for hospitals and private medical offices. The New England Journal of Medicine published a report to assist doctors in reporting instances of medical mistakes. The lead physician behind the report claims that there needs to be an improvement in communication amongst physicians in medical settings. This means that a doctor may have a duty to report a mistake that has been committed by another colleague.

The goal of the report is to protect patients who have been harmed by an instance of medical malpractice. It aims to provide patients with full disclosure for the reasons why medical malpractice may have occurred in their case. The new guidelines may help doctors to speak more directly with patients about any problems that arise in the course of treatment.

The University of Michigan Health System has found that certain laws have helped it to reduce malpractice and claim costs. The new laws, now established in 37 states, allow doctors to apologize for mistakes without the fear that their apologies will be used against them in court. Without the fear of court proceedings, doctors may be more likely to report their mistakes, allowing steps to be taken to fix the problem. If appropriate steps are not taken, the patient may have the medical facility held responsible for any further cost to him or her.

Source: NBC News, "When docs make mistakes, should colleagues tell? Yes, report says", JoNel Aleccia, October 30, 2013

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Frequently Asked Questions about Medical Malpractice

Q: What is medical malpractice?

A: Medical malpractice is negligence committed by a professional health care provider, such as a doctor, nurse, dentist, technician, hospital worker or hospital, whose treatment of a patient departs from a standard of care met by those with similar training and experience, resulting in harm to a patient...

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