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Avoiding Medical Errors As A Patient

Most people are under the impression that preventing medical errors is a problem for the medical industry. Doctors, nurses, emergency medical personnel and hospitals should take whatever steps are necessary to reduce or eliminate the potential for errors. That is true, but it is little comfort to the many patients and family members who are victimized by medical negligence every year. There are steps that patients and their families can take to reduce the potential for harm.

Preventable medical errors are a major problem in the United States. Estimates have placed the death toll at up to 440,000 people per year killed by medical mistakes. There is an entrenched culture in many hospitals that makes addressing these errors difficult. When the first response is to cover up an error, addressing it and preventing further occurrences is nearly impossible. That culture is unlikely to change in a hurry, so patients are well-advised to make whatever efforts they can to avoid being one of the victims. 

Many problems can be avoided by standing up for yourself. Working conditions encourage doctors and other hospital staff to view patients as problems to be dealt with, not people to be helped. This generally shows itself it a lack of respect for patient wishes and concerns. According to the Consumer Reports Safe Patient Project, patients who did not feel respected experienced preventable medical errors 250 percent as often as those who felt they were respected. It is your body. You are the one being treated. Make sure your doctors and nurses are listening to your wishes and respecting your rights to participate intelligently in your own care. By taking that simple step, you drastically reduce your odds of being the victim of medical malpractice.

Source: Forbes, "Consumer Reports Study: Demanding Respect From Doctors May Save Your Life," by Robert J. Szczerba, 19 January 2015 

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