If you had to guess the top three causes of death in the United States, what would you pick? Heart disease? Cancer? Accident? Stroke? Those are indeed among the top causes of death, but the number three cause (behind heart disease and cancer) is actually medical error, including medicine errors, surgical errors, emergency room errors, and nursing errors.
Just how many fatal medical errors does that add up to? According to recent research by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, over 251,000 in the United States per year. That equates to over 700 deaths per day, or the equivalent of two jet airliners per day, every day, plummeting to the ground and killing everyone on board.
As it happens, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has not historically included medical error in its annual listing of statistics on the cause of death in the United States. If it did, more people might be aware of what can reasonably be described as an epidemic.
As an individual, what can you do to minimize your risks of dying from a medical error? The first thing is to educate yourself about the medication or procedure your doctor is recommending, and arm yourself to ask questions. Have a loved one come with you to your medical appointment to take notes and to ask questions you may not have thought of.
It may seem cumbersome, but you should also consider getting a second opinion, especially if you're about to undergo a major procedure. Most of the time a second opinion will confirm your first doctor's findings. But a significant minority of the time, a second doctor will come up with something different. You owe it to yourself to know all of your options—and all of the risks you're facing. Never be afraid to advocate on your own behalf.
What if you believe, or suspect, that a medical error has already taken place, and has killed a loved one? Given the current estimates of fatal medical error, which are not exaggerated (some sources estimate the annual figure at 400,000), it's worth investigating. That starts with consulting a qualified medical malpractice attorney.
It's often difficult to find a "smoking gun" in a medical malpractice case, but an experienced medical malpractice attorney will know how to access and review medical records and interview relevant witnesses. Of course, not every death after medical intervention is due to malpractice. A good and ethical attorney will be able to evaluate the strength of your case and will never encourage you to pursue a case if it does not appear to have merit.
If you'd like to learn more your options if a loved one has died from a medical error, we invite you to contact Huegli Fraser PC for a free, confidential initial consultation. We look forward to answering your questions.
The information in this blog post is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. You should not make a decision whether or not to contact a qualified medical malpractice attorney based upon the information in this blog post. No attorney-client relationship is formed nor should any such relationship be implied. If you require legal advice, please consult with a competent medical malpractice attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.
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