Medical care advances, but medical mistakes and errors continue
Health care reform should be about feeling good and enjoying life, right? It seems you can hardly go anywhere these days without reading news articles, hearing discussions about, or even experiencing directly the ongoing changes to our health care system. There are personal opinions, politics aplenty, and controversy galore, and it’s no wonder. For each of us, it’s all about us personally; affecting how we feel, how we work, how we live, and unfortunately, sometimes how we die. One of the most common and misunderstood causes of death in the United States is due to medical mistakes and errors.
Medical mistakes: The third-leading cause of death in the US
While it’s difficult to put a precise number on the frequency of death due to medical mistakes, studies estimated anywhere from 250,000 up to 440,000 people die every year in the US from these errors. That statistic places medical mistakes as the third leading cause of death in this country, behind heart disease and cancer. We see huge efforts to battle causes #1 and #2, but why is there such a lack of focus on #3, which is probably far more preventable?
Doctors make mistakes, too
The fact is that people make mistakes. Doctors are people. But when a doctor (or nurse or any health-care professional, for that matter) makes a mistake, why is the public typically so reluctant to expect them to be accountable? Perhaps there is a fear for many patients of appearing greedy or causing unnecessary trouble. Maybe people are more likely to assume that if there’s an error, it must have been theirs, and not the doctor’s, because doctors are somehow different from ordinary people. Doctors and nurses are traditionally life-saving heroes, so it’s understandable that we don’t wish to challenge this long-held view.
The unfortunate reality about medical mistakes in the Bay Area
The unfortunate reality in the greater San Francisco Area, from Marin County to Silicon Valley and east to Oakland, is that doctors do make mistakes — just like the do everywhere else in the world. Whether it’s a surgical mistake or pharmacy error — patients do suffer injury, disability and even death. So it would make sense that doctors, patients and anyone involved in health care would want to do everything possible to reduce, and ideally prevent, such tragic losses. But medical mistakes are far more frequently recognized and addressed in courtrooms, instead of hospitals. Why is this so?
The confusing reality of navigating the medical system — if a mistake happens
Think about it. The San Francisco Bay Area is home to some of the largest medical institutions in the world. Complex hospitals and fast-paced clinics can be intimidating. When we’re there, we’re often feeling stressed and pressured, and we’re not the only ones. Complicated medical devices, intricate procedures, myriad medicines, etc. can all contribute to miscommunication, misdiagnoses, overlooked symptoms, surgery mismanagement, unintended injuries and other examples of human error for SF Bay Area patients. The goal should be to avoid these mistakes as much as possible, but in this hectic and often-traumatic setting, the tendency is to self-preservation, and death certificates often state “respiratory failure” or “cardiac arrest” rather than the real cause of death.
Can a patient in California ask questions about medical malpractice?
It is the right — and responsibility — of the patient (or patient’s advocate) to speak up if any type of medical error is suspected of causing injury, disability or death. Patients should never feel that an adverse outcome of any medical procedure or prescribed medication is their fault. If there is any question of responsibility in a San Francisco area medical procedure, a reputable lawyer should be able to review the situation, and provide a realistic recommendation for further action, if appropriate. Remember, speaking out on medical errors helps everyone in the area you live, whether it’s Marin or San Jose, as well as California and around the world.
Request a free consultation at our law firm in San Francisco
If you’ve been the victim of a medical mistake, act quickly and know your rights. Ask for a free consultation now at our San Francisco law firm. The caring and dedicated attorneys of Callaway & Wolf are on call to answer questions and help you get answers. Click here to ask for a free medical mistake case review.