Doctor Errors Kill 500,000 Americans a Year

Tuesday, 26 Aug 2014 07:15 AM

By Lynn Allison

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Here’s a shocking statistic: Doctors screw up 15 percent of the time.
 
The consequences of this alarming level of bad decision-making, wrong diagnoses, and just plain incompetence are tragic. It’s one thing when a mechanic, lawyer, plumber, or teacher makes a mistake. When a healthcare provider gets it wrong, the results are often deadly.

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“Let’s put this in perspective. The death toll from healthcare screw-ups adds up to at least 500,000 Americans annually. That is the equivalent of three jumbo jets crashing every day of the year and killing everyone aboard,” says renowned pharmacy professor and medical author Joe Graedon.
 
Joe and his wife Terry have written a new book called Top Screwups Doctors Make—and How to Avoid Them.
 
The book chronicles case after case of medical mistakes that killed, injured, or maimed patients. Joe Graedon – who with Terry hosts an award-winning public radio program called The People’s Pharmacy – says the epidemic of healthcare errors is largely going unnoticed.
 
“No one is counting the bodies,” he says. “There is no outrage, no plan to change a system that allows too many to die unnecessarily. The medical profession seems largely immune to the consequences of its errors.”
 
Joe’s own mother died of a medical mistake because a nurse ignored or did not read her chart specifically prohibiting narcotics. The elderly woman was injected with a painkiller that interacted negatively with another medication she’d been given.
 
This led to uncontrollable muscle contractions and her untimely death, he says.
 
Misdiagnosis is the biggest problem, says Graedon. “This is where it all starts,” he tells Newsmax Health. “If you get the diagnosis wrong in the beginning, it’s all downhill. “
 
David Newman-Toker, M.D., a neurologist at Johns Hopkins Hospital, who has studied the problem of medical mistakes, agrees that diagnostic errors are rampant.
 
“It’s the most frequent, most severe, and most costly of medical mistakes in malpractice suits that result in payments to patients and families,” says Dr. Newman-Toker.
 
The No. 1 reason doctors mess up a diagnosis is overconfidence, says Graedon.
 
“Doctors may not take the time or be willing to consider alternative possibilities for a patient’s symptoms,” he says. “Doctors are trained in medical school that if it sounds like hooves, then it must be a horse. But what if it’s a zebra?”
 
Other causes for diagnostic errors include reluctance by doctors to ask for help in difficult cases and a too-big patient load that makes doctors rush to a conclusion without proper consideration.
 
“When it comes to medical care, you need to realize that you need to take charge,” Graedon says. “Don’t suffer in silence and don’t be afraid to ask questions and speak your mind.”

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To lessen the chances that you’ll be a victim of a mistake, Graedon says you should ask your doctor these eight questions when you are diagnosed with a medical condition:
 
1.                  How confident are you of this diagnosis?
 
2.                  What further tests might be helpful to improve your confidence?
 
3.                  Are there any findings or symptoms that don’t fit your diagnosis?
 
4.                  What else could my symptoms be caused by?
 
5.                  Can you facilitate a second opinion by providing me with my medical records?
 
6.                  When should I expect to see my test results? Will you call with them, or will they come by mail or electronically?
 
7.                  What resources can you recommend for me to learn more about my diagnosis?
 
8.                   May I contact you by email if my symptoms change or if I have an important question?
 
 

The complete version of this article first appeared in Health Radar. To read more, CLICK HERE.


© 2014 NewsmaxHealth. All rights reserved.

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