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Hospital errors increase the risk of infections, wrongful deaths

We have discussed several disturbing studies into hospital errors in previous posts. Hospital errors are just one type of medical malpractice that a Boston resident may encounter, but hospital errors are among the most frequent and serious mistakes. The frequency of hospital malpractice caused the World Health Organization to announce that medical malpractice is so rampant that going to the hospital is riskier than flying.

The organization's envoy for patient safety noted that the change of dying in a plane crash is 1 in 10 million whereas the risk of dying for a medical malpractice incident in a hospital is 1 in 300. The risk of non-fatal medical mistakes is 1 in 10.

"It shows that health care generally worldwide still has a long way to go," the envoy said.

One of the driving factors in hospital deaths around the world is the rate of infection. While it may seem odd that people are picking up new illnesses in the exact place that they go to be cured, it does make sense that a critical mass of sick, vulnerable people would be a breeding ground for various diseases. Nevertheless, most of these infections are preventable.

Experts say that at least half of the current hospital infections can be stopped if doctors and nurses washed their hands or used disinfectant before treating a patient. It is a good practice to request that your healthcare provider wash their hands in front of you if you have concerns.

Medical devices are also a primary cause of many infections. Better sterilization efforts may help prevent these occurrences and prevent the wrongful deaths of many patients.

Source: Reuters, "Going into hospital far riskier than flying: WHO," Stephanie Nebehay, 7/21/11