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David Mittleman
David Mittleman
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Hospital Mistakes Cause More Deaths Than Car Accidents

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Along with providing medical treatments to patients, hospitals have now become notorious for its hazardous conditions because of drug mix-ups, infected incisions, bleeding problems related to the use of blood-thinning drugs, infected ventilators and catheters. Surprisingly, between 40,000 and 100,000 people die every year because of hospital mistakes, a figure that is greater than the number of casualties that occur from car accidents.

Some of the scariest surgical mishaps has to do with physicians leaving scalpels inside the patient, or doctors operating on the wrong limb. Because hospitals are continuously exposed to germs and bacteria, it is crucial for the medical staff to ensure that antibiotics are used before operations, that disinfectants are applied to ventilators and catheters, and that gloves and masks are worn by the staff to prevent infections.

For example, actress Alicia Cole, who is known for the many portraits of doctors and nurses including roles on General Hospital, became a real-life patient after contracting Necrotizing Fasciitis (NF) following a minor procedure that took place at a top-rated hospital. Necrotizing Fasciitis (NF) is a bacterial infection that can only be contracted after it is introduced to the body.

It was later revealed that Cole was the third patient to be infected with the NF disease at that particular hospital and that she was the only one to survive. What is even more troubling is that throughout Cole’s hospitalization for NF, the hospital did not place Cole in strict isolation, and gloves and masks were not worn by the treating doctors and nurses.

In another widely reported case, actor Dennis Quaid ’s newborn twins were given 1,000 times the correct dosage of heparin just after their birth at Cedar Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Fortunately, the problem was promptly detected by the hospital staff and steps were immediately taken to counteract the heparin dosage.

Another example of a surgical mishap involves comedian Dana Carvey. During a heart bypass surgery, Carvey’s doctor accidentally operated on the wrong artery. These hospital-induced injuries are one of the reasons why malpractice cases continue to stagger in our judicial system. Hospital mistakes are much more common than most people realize. If it can happen to well-known celebrities, and at the finest hospitals in the country, then it can happen anywhere and to anyone.

Needless to say, some of these avoidable catastrophic mishaps can be prevented by diligent attentions to details by the hospital staff. Despite numerous regulatory surveys at various levels of the government, these systematic hospital-induced injuries remain unresolved. A study showed that doctors only washed their hands 61% of the time when knowing that they were being watched, and only 44% of the time if nobody was looking. So, what can be done to reduce the risks?

According to Evan Falchuk, president of Boston-based Best Doctors, “if you’re sick, the best way to avoid getting sicker is to take charge of your care.” In doing so, we should not put too much unearned trust in doctors and nurses, and should not hesitate to scrutinize the medical services that are provided by the hospitals.