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The scary statistics about medical mistakes and surgical errors

The statistics surrounding medical malpractice in Michigan and throughout the U.S. are disturbing. In fact, according to a recent column in the Wall Street Journal, 40 patients each week go into surgery only to have a surgeon operate on the wrong body part. And these errors are not limited to the operating room. About one quarter of hospitalized patients are harmed by a medical mistake.

The columnist, a doctor, thinks transparency is the answer when it comes to preventing these dangerous mistakes. He suggests several reforms in order to make the practice of medicine less error-prone:

  1. Public reports: Just like Michigan residents like to read restaurant reviews before spending their hard-earned money dining, they should be able to easily access hospital reviews before putting their safety in someone's hands. By providing hospital infection and readmission rates, as well as surgical mistake numbers to the public, the public can become informed and pressure hospitals to shape up. Additionally, the public should be able to access safety surveys answered by doctors and hospital staff.
  2. Video surveillance: The columnist believes that video recordings can be used for training and for assessments of doctors' work by their superiors.
  3. Doctor's notes: Some hospitals provide patients with online access to their doctor's notes, which helps patients stay informed and allows them to comment about symptoms or details.
  4. An end to gag orders: When people are injured due to a medical mistake, a medical malpractice settlement may require the victim not to speak publicly about the case. In fact, some patients sign a gag order far before this point, at the check-in desk of the clinic or hospital. By forcing medical malpractice victims to keep quiet, the medical community's opportunity to learn from mistakes is hindered.

When someone is injured because of medical malpractice, it is possible to recover compensation for the related costs. However, it is imperative that medical professionals and hospitals work to reduce preventable medical mistakes.

Source: Wall Street Journal, "How to Stop Hospitals From Killing Us," Marty Makary, Sept. 21, 2012

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