Common medical errors and what to do about them

You go to the doctor when you are sick or have a medical emergency and expect to receive care that cures you or saves your life. Unfortunately, however, that is not always the case.

Medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States, coming in behind cancer and heart disease. A BMJ study found that medical error causes more than 250,000 deaths, a shocking statistic for preventable deaths.

Types of common medical errors

According to a National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) study, there are three main categories that most medical errors fall into. They include:

  • Diagnostic errors: Many errors occur when doctors are diagnosing an illness or disease. This can happen when they fail to complete necessary tests or use outdated methods.
  • Treatment errors: Another common source of error is when healthcare professionals perform treatment incorrectly. For example, mistakes in operation or administration of a drug.
  • Preventative measure errors: Medical errors can happen when doctors do not continue to monitor you after a procedure or have you come in for follow-up treatments.

Medical errors in Washington

Washington state classifies medical mistakes as adverse health events and has a law that requires healthcare facilities, such as hospitals, to report instances of medical error. The goal is that the more that hospitals report certain medical errors, the more that doctors will learn from their past mistakes. The verdict is still out on whether this system is helping avoid future medical errors.

What do you do if you suspect medical malpractice?

If you believe a doctor or medical professional mistreated you, they should be held accountable, and there are things that you can do. It may be wise to file a report with your state's medical complaint board or discuss with a lawyer the best option for you.

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