Hospital Errors Kill Almost As Many As Auto Accidents In U.S.

If you think going into surgery in an American hospital is scary, wait until you read the statistics on what can happen to you once you get there:

One out of four hospitalized patients will be harmed by some medical error.

Surgeons operate on the wrong body part 40 times a week.

As much as 30 percent of medications, tests and procedures are unnecessary resulting in hundreds of billions of dollars in waste as well as jeopardizing patient health.

These statistics are not from some anti-medicine nut, they come from noted surgeon and author Dr. Mary Makary, a surgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital and a developer of the surgical checklists adopted by the World Health Organization, is the author of “Unaccountable: What Hospitals Won’t Tell You and How Transparency Can Revolutionize Health Care,” published this month by Bloomsbury Press.

Part of the problem, he writes for the Wall Street Journal, is doctors themselves who by tradition overlook mistakes by other doctors as well as ignoring incompetent doctors.

“As doctors, we swear to do no harm. But on the job we soon absorb another unspoken rule: to overlook the mistakes of our colleagues,” he wrote in Saturday’s WSJ.

“The problem is vast. U.S. surgeons operate on the wrong body part as often as 40 times a week. Roughly a quarter of all hospitalized patients will be harmed by a medical error of some kind. If medical errors were a disease, they would be the sixth leading cause of death in America—just behind accidents and ahead of Alzheimer’s. The human toll aside, medical errors cost the U.S. health-care system tens of billions a year. Some 20% to 30% of all medications, tests and procedures are unnecessary, according to research done by medical specialists, surveying their own fields. What other industry misses the mark this often?

“Hospitals as a whole also tend to escape accountability, with excessive complication rates even at institutions that the public trusts as top-notch. Very few hospitals publish statistics on their performance, so how do patients pick one? As an informal exercise throughout my career, I’ve asked patients how they decided to come to the hospital where I was working (Georgetown, Johns Hopkins, D.C. General Hospital, Harvard and others). Among their answers: “Because you’re close to home”; “You guys treated my dad when he died”; “I figured it must be good because you have a helicopter.” You wouldn’t believe the number of patients who have told me that the deciding factor for them was parking.”

And Connecticut has a special problem, not one of its hospitals is ranked among the top ones.


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3 Comments on "Hospital Errors Kill Almost As Many As Auto Accidents In U.S."

  1. A man I know had a son not gaining weight. I don’t know the amount of time but baby boy was taken to the hospital in Hartford. The baby had tubes inserted into the stomach for food to go through. The baby got sicker and was taken back. It was found that the tubes were not inserted in the stomach but in the wrong place. When the parents were told they were very upset. They were told to go to another hospital if the did not like their service. The baby died, I believe in the Hartford hospital. The parents are suing.

  2. Why are doctors getting away with this? Why don’t they loose their jobs? Everyone else is fired for maiing mistkes…Doctors and hospitals get away with anything they want…

    I know someone who filed a complaint against a major hospital after getting TWO conflicting diagnoses (one of which was fatal), and wanted to know which doctor was correct. In reply, this person got a reply from the hospital saying ‘don’t come back’…find healthcare elsewhere.

    Is this legal? Don’t hospitals have to follow complaint procedures? Don’t hospitals get government reimbursements from Medicare and Medicaid and have to follow the government “Conditions of Participation?” in order to keep getting the reimbursements?

  3. My son was seen by a follow up clinic for long-term brain cancer survival. Full work-up (he was working and had great insurance coverage to pay for extensive tests) one month later presents with stroke symptoms, hospital fails to treat stroke in timely manner. My son is now disable, not able to work as an engineer. No medical responsibility. Hospital is Yale-New Haven. Worst care ever experienced.

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