One in 12 patients are harmed by medical mistakes, study finds

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About one in 12 patients around the world suffer harm from medical errors – and half of the mistakes are preventable, according new study.

Tragically, these errors are preventable, but leave about 12 percent of patients they affect permanently disabled, or dead. 

Human errors, misjudgments and unpredictable bad reactions can never be 100 percent eliminated, but the goal, in medicine, is to come as close to that as possible.

But we are a long way off yet, according to a University of Manchester study of more than 335,000 patient records released Wednesday. 

Unintentional injuries in general are the third legal leading cause of death in the US, but in 2016, two experts went so far as to argue that medical mistakes, in particular, fill that grim slot. 

Their estimates suggested some 200,000 to 400,000 Americans die a year due to medical errors. 

Such errors include a wide range of causes, including everything from unforeseeable bad reactions to drugs, to gross surgical mistakes, like performing the wrong operation on a patient.

Doctors swear an oath to ‘first, do no harm,’ when they graduate from medical school and get their white coats. 

Patients must put a great deal of trust in their physicians and medical care providers to do as they’ve sworn. 

But new research published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) found that out of 337,025 patients seen between 2000 and 2009, doctors and nurses made mistakes when treating six percent, or 20,221.5 people.  

The World Health Organization considers psychological, physiological and social harms attributable to medical mistakes to rest on the shoulders of doctors and nurses, in addition to permanent disabilities and deaths. 

In their new study, the University of Manchester researchers point out that about as many people say they’ve suffered harm in the process of their medical ‘care’ as suffer from chronic diseases like multiple sclerosis in developed nations. 

And those numbers are probably underestimates.  

Hospitals are legally obligated to report medical errors that occur while a patient is under their watch – but that doesn’t mean that standard is adhered to. 

It requires doctors to own up to mistakes, sometimes fatal ones. 

Prior research suggests that as many as six out of seven such mistakes go unreported in the US. 

So, in all likelihood, even more patients suffered medical errors in the decade the University of Manchester researchers analyzed. 

Based on their analysis, the study authors estimated that about half of these injuries, psychological traumas, infections and other mistakes could have been avoided. 

Most of mistakes were made in hospital settings and involved either a wrong drug or other therapeutic being given or a surgical error.

And with 12 percent of patients dying due to these mistakes, the researchers echoed calls for better patient safety practice and accountability. 

‘Our findings affirm that preventable patient harm is a serious problem across medical care settings,’ they wrote. 

They called for better procedures to prevent such obvious – but life-threatening – mistakes as medication mix-ups and to ensure that doctors and nurses actually come clean when their mistakes hurt patients.      

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