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When physicians make mistakes, the consequences can be catastrophic. It’s been estimated that medical errors kill up to 440,000 hospital patients each year.

Now, the voices of patients who have suffered serious medical errors, and those of their families, have been heard. And they have a disturbing, often times tragic, story to tell that echoes the dire statistics.

The Empowered Patient Coalition, a patient safety advocacy group, recently released the findings of a survey that included feedback from almost 700 patients and patients’ families. All experienced preventable mistakes in medical care, and all described their ordeals.

Types of Medical Errors

The survey questions were both direct and open-ended. One specific piece of information requested from the patients and families was what type of adverse medical event they experienced, including:

  • Surgical error, such as puncture or tear
  • Infection, surgical-related or received during their hospital stay
  • Medication error, such as an overdose or given the wrong drug

Misdiagnosis was the leading medical mistake reported by patients in this survey. The second leading cause was surgical error, with wrong site surgery and objects left in patients being common types of this preventable error. Hospital acquired infections was the third leading cause of patient harm.

The majority of the families in the survey reported their loved one died following the medical error.

Frustrations with Doctors Following Medical Mistakes

In the narrative portion of the survey, in which respondents were allowed to provide more details as to their experiences, nine out of every 10 said they received improper care or concern for the suffering they relayed to the care givers. More specifically:

  • 48 percent said their doctors insisted the treatment was correct despite the families’ concerns
  • 47 percent reported the medical staff denied any responsibility for mistakes
  • 40 percent of those surveyed said their doctors kept the families uninformed as to the investigation into the medical error
  • 33 percent said their doctors stopped communicating with them once the mistake occurred

The survey placed communication failures by providers into four categories, all of which proved extremely frustrating for the patients and their families:

  • Abandonment
  • Disrespect
  • Intimidation
  • Failure to listen

When someone is severely hurt or killed by a preventable error in medical care, it can be very difficult for patients or surviving family members to find out what went wrong. Experienced medical malpractice attorneys conduct investigations to determine the cause of catastrophic medical errors and hold providers responsible for their avoidable mistakes.

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