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Don't blame patients for medical errors, blame providers

Each year, approximately 251,000 people in this country die from medical errors. Those deaths are considered preventable deaths. Even with that staggering figure being brought to light, there seems to be little being done to prevent those preventable deaths from occurring.

That figure only take the preventable deaths into account. When you think about the preventable injuries that occur each year because of medical errors, the number of adverse effects caused by medical error would likely skyrocket.

Sadly, many people opt to blame the patient for the medical errors. They will claim that the patient should have demanded better medical care or that the patient should have known what the medical professionals should have done.

That train of thought is severely misguided. Patients aren't medical professionals, except for the small percentage of cases in which the patient does have medical training. How can those patients who don't have medical training be expected to know what the medical professionals should do? The logical answer is that they shouldn't know what medical professionals should do because they don't have the training or experience to know that.

It is important that doctors and nurses take action when there are errors being made. In Pennsylvania, there are several different agencies that publish information about medical errors in the state. The Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority publishes information on medical errors in long-term care facilities, acute care facilities and outpatient surgery settings. The Pennsylvania Healthcare Cost Containment Council offers data on hospital-acquired infections. The Pennsylvania Department of Health has data regarding skilled nursing facilities.

Using this information is a way that medical professionals can learn about areas that can use improvement. If you are a patient who was harmed by a medical error, you might opt to seek compensation. When you do this, you could help other patients too since the issue that you had to deal with will have attention brought to it.

Source: Health Affairs, "Let’s Stop Making Excuses For Egregious Medical Errors," Karen Wolk Feinstein, June 21, 2016

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