A recent article in The Wall Street Journal reported that medical mistakes kill enough people each week to fill four jumbo jets. The story reported that: (1) U.S. surgeons operate on the wrong body part as often as 40 times a week; (2) about a quarter of all hospitalized patients will be harmed by medical errors; (3) if medical mistakes were classified as a disease, they would be the sixth leading cause of death in America; (4) medical mistakes cost tens of billions of dollars per year; and (5) medical errors often result in expensive and unnecessary medications, tests, and procedures. The article contended that a major cause of these problems is that doctors are far too willing to overlook the mistakes and errors of other doctors. The article went on to state that best way to help fight against this dangerous situation is for patients to demand more accountability of doctors and hospitals and for patients themselves to be better informed. Some practical steps suggested were for hospitals to publicly report their rates of infection, readmission, surgical complications, and medical errors so that patients can be better informed about which hospitals are safest. Other suggestions included encouraging nurses and other staff members to speak up when they notice a potential problem; using cameras in the operating room to better assess whether procedures are being done correctly; and having a more open dialogue about medical mistakes.
It is interesting to note that the number of autopsies being performed to determine the true cause of a patient’s death have declined drastically in the last ten years, thus making it more difficult to prove that a healthcare provider’s mistake caused the death. If you question the true cause of someone’s death, you should insist upon the performance of a complete autopsy. If the hospital or physician refuses, you have the right to have one performed at your own expense. The “cause of death” listed on a death certificate seldom even begins to shed light upon the true course of events that led to the death. You have a right to know the truth.
The law firm of Pierce & Thornton specializes in medical malpractice litigation throughout North Carolina and Virginia, including in Norfolk, Portsmouth, Virginia Beach, Hampton, Newport News, Williamsburg, Suffolk, and the Eastern Shore. The attorneys at Pierce & Thornton have nearly 50 years of combined experience in litigating all types of medical malpractice cases. They have obtained some of the largest jury verdicts and mediation settlements in Virginia over the past several years. We encourage you to contact our firm if you question the medical care rendered to you, a family member, or friend. If we can help you, we will. Your consultation is free.