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National Medical Malpractice Statistics

Medical malpractice happens every day throughout America, leading to serious injuries and fatalities. Because not everyone who experiences malpractice reports it, the actual number of medical malpractice events may never be known. However, figures reported in a 2017 MD Magazine article suggest that no fewer than 200,000 and perhaps as many as 400,000 U.S. deaths each year can be attributed to medical malpractice. Perhaps more shocking than those estimates is the realization that the number of injured individuals is likely much higher, probably sliding into the millions.

These statistics are sobering reminders that medical malpractice is common enough to potentially be one of the highest causes of death across the nation.  With that in mind, every person in Pennsylvania and New Jersey owes it to themselves and their loved ones to get the facts on the most common types of medical malpractice issues handled by attorneys such as Wapner Newman.

Surgical Errors

Surgery can be a complicated situation. Planning, precision, and proficiency are key in any surgical setting. Regrettably, surgical errors do happen. For instance, a surgeon might operate on the wrong patient, performing an unnecessary and possibly life-threatening surgery; or the surgeon could perform the wrong procedure, perhaps on the wrong side of the body.

The Patient Safety Network released information based on six months’ observation of orthopedic surgeons. During the half-year timeframe, nearly 60 percent operated on the wrong side of a patient; fourteen percent performed the wrong procedure; and five percent operated on the wrong patient — meaning that one out of every 20 patients weren’t given the medical help they required or expected.

These aren’t the only problems that can come up during surgery, though. Stories abound regarding surgeons and medical personnel leaving everything from metal tools to sponges inside patients. Such foreign objects can lead to infection and damaged internal organs and tissues. As a USA Today piece from 2013 noted, this type of surgical malpractice occurs up to 6,000 times yearly. Ironically, a cheap sponge-tracking device could solve most of these issues, but around 85 percent of hospitals are reticent to put such prevention measures in place.

Medical Misdiagnosis

Another kind of medical malpractice concern is misdiagnosis. Johns Hopkins Medicine has noted that up to 160,00 cases of injury or death occur every year in the United States because of diagnostic errors. In fact, of medical malpractice claims studied by researchers, more than one-third were due to underlying misdiagnosis.

Clinicians themselves admit to misdiagnosis being a preventable, yet far too commonly seen, problem. An extensive whitepaper from QuantiaMD shows that as many as 96 percent of clinicians say that misdiagnoses are always or sometimes avoidable. Of the diagnoses most likely to end in misdiagnosis, pulmonary embolism, bipolar disorder, appendicitis, breast cancer, and myocardial infarction head the list. Interestingly, artificial intelligence (AI) is being weighed to see if it could decrease malpractice in medicine, but most people are hesitant to believe that it will ever be able to replace humans.

Healthcare-Associated Infections (HAIs)

Staph and other infections can also be a result of medical malpractice. According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC,) one out of every 25 patients in a hospital setting is statistically apt to get a healthcare-associated infection (HAI.) Resultantly, the CDC has made it a mission since 2015 to decrease HAIs through pragmatism and planning. To be sure, progress has been made, but hospitals still have a history of leaving certain patients in a worse state than when they were admitted.

Of all the types of HAIs the CDC examines, cases of pneumonia, gastrointestinal illness, urinary tract infections (UTIs,) and pulmonary bloodstream infections are the most common. Consequently, anyone who enters a hospital in America may well be at risk if the environment is not appropriately sanitized, stringent protocols are not followed, and patient needs are not correctly addressed.

Deaths Caused by Medical Error

While it might sound surprising, medical malpractice deaths can be difficult to pinpoint without a full autopsy. In a 2016 NPR article, the author discussed this issue in depth, highlighting the fact that some “natural” deaths may be anything but. Calling on a Johns Hopkins study, the NPR piece suggests that a quarter of a million people could be dying each year due to medical errors. This would make medical error more fatal than respiratory disease.

Without more information and research, medicine may never be able to pinpoint exactly how many individuals have died because of a mistake. However, families, victim advocates, and legal professionals can help uncover the true cost of this problem.

Gynecological and Obstetric Negligence

Despite modern medicine’s abilities, advances, and upgrades, women still face malpractice risks during pregnancy and childbirth. A good example of this is when gestational diabetes is ignored, or a mother is allowed to undergo a longer-than-safe labor.  Similarly, Caesarian sections, or C-sections, can be complex. If an obstetrician and team are not well-trained to provide reasonable care, they may put a mother and newborn in danger.

The CDC has issued a warning that severe maternal morbidity (SMM) is on the rise around the States. Up to 50,000 cases per year are tracked by the CDC’s representatives. While not every incident of SMM is caused by malpractice, some may be linked to this issue.

Prescription Drug Mistakes

Occasionally, physicians prescribe the wrong medication. On the other hand, they or their team members may prescribe the right pharmaceutical but at the wrong dosage. Or pharmacists may make an error when filling a prescription received from a hospital or doctor’s office.

Again, hard numbers aren’t easy to come by when discussing prescription drug errors. In 2016 in Psychology Today, the topic was investigated in terms of the 300 percent increase in prescribed pain medications and their relations to a plethora of drug-related overdoses and sometimes very public deaths. Not all of these overdoses were effectively caused by physician mistakes, but with malpractice being such a wide, under reported problem, it’s safe to assume that some may have been.

How to Deal with Medical Malpractice

In some cases, medical malpractice is straightforward and even obvious. However, most situations require the help of a trained legal counsel ready to hold medical professionals accountable for their negligent actions.

If you’re concerned that you or someone you care about has been injured or died as the result of malpractice, contact Wapner Newman. We offer free medical malpractice consultations in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.