Patient safety remains a pressing problem across the country. When you go to the hospital, your goal is to get better – not worse, right? Then, why are thousands of patients at risk every day due to medical error or negligence? More than ever, medication errors, misdiagnosis, and misjudgments have turned safe havens into potentially dangerous ones. As many as 98,000 people die each year in U.S. hospitals from medical errors, according to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. That’s more than from car accidents, breast cancer, or AIDS. Nearly 2 million get infections in hospitals each year largely due to preventable errors; many will die from them. Study after study has found a significant link between the occurrence of breakdowns in safety and the number of malpractice claims. The cost of those errors has been estimated to increase Medicare payments by a staggering $8.8 billion.
Preventable complications are far too frequent. Healthcare professionals, as well as patients would benefit greatly if the medical profession placed more focus on improving safety protocol, but many say that it is hampered by financial constraints that cause them to work more with less. The result is poor communication, a faulty “check and balance” system, and overworked and/or undertrained staff. Safety means designing systems geared to preventing, detecting, and minimizing hazards and the likelihood of error – not attaching blame elsewhere.
I recall a case in which a woman bled to death during a botched C-section. During surgery, her uterine arteries were cut or torn causing internal bleeding. Over the next 15 hours, medical personnel disagreed about whether to open her up again, while she lay losing about four quarts of blood. The woman eventually went into shock and died. Although the family was compensated for her death, their main focus was improving the quality of medical care and reducing the likelihood that another family would have to endure the same suffering and loss.
It may be part of human nature to err, but it is also part of human nature to create solutions and look for better/safer options. The know-how exists to prevent mistakes, but leadership, resources, training, and other improvements are necessary. The bottom line – the only thing that matters to the patient is that he/she receives the best and safest care possible. One way patients can help is by asking questions. They should know what medications they are taking, what it looks like the side effects, and the risks.
Many times it comes down to malpractice lawsuits in order to achieve results. They are a primary enforcer of safety changes in the medical/hospital communities. It should not take a lawsuit to force safety changes in health care; unfortunately, frequently that is the case. Despite cries of "jackpot justice" and for "tort reform," lawsuits are less about compensation and more about safety and prevention. Medical malpractice attorneys will continue to advocate for efforts to reduce these sobering statistics. What are you doing to push for improved safety in patient care?
Mark Bello has thirty-three years experience as a trial lawyer and twelve years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide legal finance cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by plaintiffs involved in pending, personal injury litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Business Associate of the Florida, Tennessee, and Colorado Associations for Justice, a member of the American Bar Association as well as their ABA Advisory Committee, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series—Mark Bello is also the CEO of Lawsuit Financial and the country’s leading expert in providing non-recourse lawsuit funding to plaintiffs involved in pending litigation. He is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.