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Improving Patient Safety By Learning from Mistakes

Medical mistakes happen, often causing serious harm to patients. When a mistake occurs, patients should be compensated for the error and a medical malpractice attorney in New York should be consulted by victims or their families. Ideally, the hospital and doctors will also learn from the error and put new safeguards in place that help to prevent future problems. emergency-room-65898-m

Recently, the Boston Globe reported on how a devastating medical error has prompted changes in the hospital where the error occurred. Unfortunately, the Globe also indicated that when medical malpractice insurers become involved, it can slow the rate of change and also make it more difficult for victims and their families to receive compensation in cases where it is clear that an error has harmed the patient.

Establishing an effective system both to learn from mistakes and to provide prompt compensation to victims in cases of medical error would be beneficial to everyone.

Learning from Medical Mistakes

According to the Boston Globe, a patient lost her life after the wrong dye was used to identify the location of tubing threaded into her spine. The neurosurgeon performing a procedure on the patient's back had requested the correct dye, but the pharmacy did not have it and substituted a different one. The surgeon checked the label and then injected the dye twice. Unfortunately, when the patient awoke with severe seizures and pain, caregivers realized that the dye came with a clear warning that it should never be injected into the spine.

The neurosurgeon immediately admitted the mistake to the patient's children, and the patient died the next day. The hospital responded quickly and recognized that the doctor had mistakenly seen on the label what he had expected to see. These types of errors, where caregivers look at charts and medication labels and see what they expect, are responsible for thousands of deaths every year.

Another unrelated incident occurred at the same hospital when a cancer patient had an IV line removed without his feet elevated, as is required by hospital policy. This resulted in a heart attack and severe brain damage.

The hospital where the errors occurred quickly adopted a series of improvements, including requiring doctors and nurses to submit detailed written medication orders to pharmacies. Two staff members are also now required to follow a checklist on the proper procedure for removing IV lines.

It is good news when a hospital realizes that there are problems with their policies and takes steps to correct them. Unfortunately, as the Boston Globe reports, even when physicians and hospitals admit guilt, medical malpractice insurers may deny responsibility for harm that occurs to patients. This can lead to delays in new safety procedures being implemented while litigation is ongoing and it can also delay patients and their family members from receiving the compensation they deserve.

Six hospitals in Massachusetts have pilot programs where patients who are harmed are offered an apology and early financial settlements. If these types of programs become more widespread, perhaps the process of responding to medical mistakes will be improved and errors can be more easily prevented while patients are also provided with the money they need after a medical mistake causes damage.

For more information about how a medical malpractice attorney in New York City can help you with your medical malpractice case, contact Jonathan C. Reiter Law Firm, PLLC. Call 212-736-0979 or visit and schedule a free consultation today.

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