Medical Malpractice Within the United States: From It’s Prevalence to Prevention
More than 250,000 people in the United States die every year from medical errors, according to one John Hopkins study. However, other reports claim that those numbers could be as many as a shocking 440,000. Due to the undeniable prevalence of medical errors throughout the nation, here’s what you need to know regarding how medical malpractice occurs, the everlasting effects of such an instance, and what can be done in preventing more of it.
The third leading cause of death
Medical malpractice is defined as occurring when a hospital, doctor, or other healthcare provider causes injury to a patient through a negligent act, and may be a result of a number of situations — such as an error of diagnosis, treatment, aftercare, or health management. In addition to the sheer number of deaths that are caused by medical errors each year, effectively making it the third leading cause of death in the country, it’s necessary to highlight the fact that medical error rates are actually slightly higher in the US than in other developed countries, such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the UK, and Germany. Not only that, but less than 10 percent of medical errors are even reported, proving the issue to be quite considerable.
The everlasting effects
To further highlight the sheer prevalence of medical errors or malpractice in the country, a whopping nearly half of physicians (or 49%) say that they’ve been named in a malpractice suit, according to Medscape’s Family Physician Malpractice Report. However, it’s worth noting that many of these suits never actually wind up going to trial and that only a fraction that do will end up with a win for the plaintiff. On the other hand, patients that do experience an instance of medical malpractice can potentially end up dealing with much more than just a trial. In addition to the physical effects of medical errors which can range from injuries to lifelong conditions, patients who experience such an event can also have mental health effects as well, from PTSD and trauma to stress and anxiety. While the average settlement for medical malpractice can aid in covering healthcare expenses that result from the error, the trauma can have everlasting effects for both the patient and family involved.
Preventing future instances of medical error
While malpractice suits can aid in giving a patient justice and perhaps remove the physician’s ability to practice medicine, it’s important to realize that preventing many instances of medical error can be done right from the beginning. For example, physicians can prevent potential mistakes by doing something as simple as keeping a detailed and accurate medical history on the patient, asking the right questions, using effective communication skills, and being alert while on the job. Patients can also do their part by playing an active role in their healthcare, such as by giving accurate health information, and ensuring to share all important medical information or concerns with their healthcare providers.
Being the third leading cause of death in the United States, there’s no doubt that medical malpractice is a major issue that begs for a solution. While being proactive in preventing medical error can be done right from the beginning, malpractice suits can also aid in serving justice.