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Survey shows serious injury for medical mistakes still a problem


A concern of some who are being treated by medical professionals in Massachusetts may be that a physician will make a mistake and cause serious injury or death. While the medical profession has been more cognizant of the problem and tried to take steps to reduce the number of mistakes, a survey indicates that a number of state residents have had this happen to them or to someone they were close to.

The poll, conducted by Harvard School of Public Health, showed that 25 percent of the people polled said they had had this problem or someone close to them did and half of those errors resulted in serious injury. The survey involved 1,224 people. In many cases, they didn't report the error because they either didn't know how to do it or because they didn't think it would help. The attempt to tamp down on the errors was spurred by the death of a 39-year-old woman who, in 1994, was the victim of prescription medication errors. The woman wasa health reporter at the Boston Globe. She was given four times the amount of an anti-cancer drug she was receiving during treatment of the disease. Her husband had protested that her symptoms concerned him, but the discovery of the mistake wasn't made until she had been dead for four months.

A report from 1999 by the Institute of Medicine showed that nearly 100,000 people died in hospitals every year due to the wrong drug being dispensed or other medial mistakes. Studies have shown that the numbers of people dying or being injured by these mistakes has diminished markedly. The recent study indicating that a large number of people have been negatively affected personally by medical mistakes also showed that one-third of the people surveyed did not seek information on the records of those who were providing them care. Two-thirds said they didn't worry about medical mistakes.

Over half of those surveyed were subjected to misdiagnosis. Thirty-eight percent were given the wrong treatment, surgery or test. Thirty-four percent received unclear instructions on how to follow up after their treatment. Thirty-two percent were victimized by prescription medication errors. Thirty-two percent had an infection after treatment, surgery or a test. When these kinds of mistakes are made, it's important that those who were victimized know what to do next. For that, speaking to an experienced legal professional may provide a more clear and less-stressful path moving forward.

Source: Boston Globe, "Medical errors in Mass. still common, study finds," Kay Lazar, accessed on Dec. 14, 2014

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