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D.C. patients should not be stuck with medical malpractice costs

No one -- not doctors, not patients -- likes to even think about medical errors, let alone talk about them. Unfortunately, medical malpractice, whether due to preventable mistakes, misdiagnosis, or a poor coordination of health care, occurs at an alarming frequency, both in Washington D.C. and nationwide. Going to the hospital is already an anxiety-inducing experience for patients: a loss of freedom, coupled with vulnerability -- both physical and emotional -- at the hands of strangers who patients have no choice but to trust is already a nerve-wracking situation. To add the unfortunately high risk of medical malpractice to this mix is intolerable.

Preventable mistakes occur with unacceptable regularity, according to a number of recent reliable studies. A 2008 review of in-patient records by the Department of Health and Human Services reported 180,000 fatalities due to medical errors occurred in the Medicare population alone. A 2013 report estimated annual deaths due to adverse events in hospitals across the country at 210,000 to 400,000. And in 2015, it was estimated that hospital error causes over 250,000 deaths per year, making this the third leading cause of death in hospitals. This dire situation needs to be addressed for the well-being and, indeed, the very lives of patients.

Equally upsetting is the fact that medical mistakes are underreported, meaning these frightening statistics are most likely lower than in actuality. Because health care practitioners fear liability and disciplinary actions, they frequently avoid reporting the true rate of error. A medical journal review of 4,000 articles demonstrated adverse events in up to 18 percent of records, with preventable errors listed at up to almost 9 percent; and this is still a substantial underestimation of the actual regularity at which mistakes occur. After interviewing almost 1,000 patients six to 12 months after they were discharged, these patients described three times the number of undesirable results than those recorded in medical reports.

Of course, human error is never completely avoidable; however, patients should not be expected to pay the high resulting price. In cases of suspected doctor or surgical error, hospital negligence, misdiagnosis, or the like, many Washington D.C. patients seek a law firm with experience in medical malpractice. A skilled medical malpractice attorney can offer patients advice on the best course of action, and the guidance provided can prove invaluable in helping patients seek monetary compensation for pain and suffering.

Source: sfgate.com, "All of Us-Doctor and Patients-Need to Face up to Healthcare Hazards", Deepak Chopra, Nov. 23, 2016

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