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Medical mistakes, what are they and how can you avoid them, pt. 2

In continuation of our topic last week on common medical mistakes; an anesthesiologist and critical care physician at Johns Hopkins recently said that medical mistakes are likely the 'third leading cause of death' in this country. These mistakes are largely avoidable and there are a number of strategies medical facilities can adopt to help doctors and nurses avoid these mistakes.

Here are the last five of the top ten medical errors made by doctors, including the cause of the mistake, resultant consequences and tips for how to prevent these mistakes from happening to you or someone you love.

  • Air bubbles in the blood. This is caused by a hole in the patient's chest that is not properly sealed after the removal of a chest tube. Air bubbles can get sucked into a wound cutting off the supply of blood to the patient's heart, brains, kidneys and lungs. To avoid air bubbles in the blood, ask what position you should be in when the central line tube comes out.
  • Operations on the wrong body part due to a surgeon misreading a patient's chart or draping covering surgical marks that denote what side a patient is to be operated on. Before the scheduled surgery, confirm with a staff nurse the correct location and body part of the surgery.
  • Patient receives a life-threatening infection while in the hospital, mainly due to a staff member not washing their hands properly, or following proper sterilization procedures. Asking a doctor to wash his or her hands before touching you, even if he or she is wearing gloves, may seem odd but it could save your life.
  • Using the wrong tube on the patient because they look alike; a feeding tube may look like a chest tube but a mistake could result in medicine meant for the stomach going into the heart or vice versa. Ask medical staff to trace every tube back to its origin to ensure the right medicine is transmitted to the right location.
  • Patient wakes up during surgery due to too little anesthesia being administered. Not all patients will feel pain but some have reported feeling every little poke, prod and cut made. Before the surgery, ask your doctor about the required anesthesia.

Knowing what the common mistakes are and how to avoid them could prevent a hospital's or doctor's negligence from happening to you or someone you love. And remember, you do have rights if you are injured by a doctor, medical personnel or healthcare facility. A medical malpractice or wrongful death claim, in the event a loved one is fatally injured through medical malpractice or hospital negligence, could result in compensatory as well as other damages for injuries sustained.

Source: CNN, "10 shocking medical mistakes," John Bonifield and Elizabeth Cohen, Nov. 5, 2012

Our New York medical malpractice law firm helps those injured through medical negligence, doctor and surgical errors or hospital negligence, similar to the issues discussed above.

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