Medical professionals are a group of people responsible for your health. As a consumer, you tend to place a high level of trust upon these professionals, especially when you are very ill. Though they carry the most significant role in the medical field, you, as a patient, also have a responsibility to be more informed about the medical care provided to you so you can make better choices, and ensure that the treatment or care you receive is not poor and will not cause you harm. Medical errors happen in different kinds of ways and reasons, but you will be surprised at how some are more common than others.
Medical mistakes occur every so often that it is known to be the third leading cause of death. These are the common types of medical errors and how they happen:
Medicine is prescribed to address a health problem and help improve your health condition. There are those who inevitably come with side effects and risks, but are acceptable. However, harm will be brought upon you when the medicine is incorrectly prescribed. This preventable mistake by pharmacists, nurses or doctors can endanger your health, cause you to suffer severe injuries and, worse, lead to death.
The types of commonly reported medication errors are the following:
- Wrong drug dosage
- Wrong labeling of medicines
- Giving the drugs for the incorrect time period
- Failure to give the medicine
- Administering incorrect drugs
- Confusion over the same medicine names or uncertainty on medical abbreviations
- Failure to monitor the effects of the drugs given
These common errors, along with the other medication errors, happen during the process of prescribing, compounding, and administering a drug. The danger it can cause is mostly found before, during, and after surgery.
For pregnant women, medications taken will impact not only your body’s health but also the well-being of your unborn child. That is why doctors must be extremely cautious when prescribing and administering drugs to pregnant women. When a mistake happens, both mother and baby can suffer serious complications, even death.
These are the common birth injuries as a result of medical negligence:
- Brachial Palsy Injuries: This condition happens when the brachial plexus responsible for arm and hand movements are injured. This injury develops during pregnancy when the baby’s shoulders are trapped in the mother’s pelvic bone and is pulled excessively or incorrectly by the physician. This kind of injury can lead to temporary or permanent disability.
- Fractures: There’s plenty of contributing factors for this injury, but the most common is when the infant is forcibly pulled while in a breech position.
- Facial Paralysis: This injury is common when using forceps or vacuum extraction when pulling out a baby. The excessive pressure on the infant’s face while delivering the baby can cause irreparable damage to the nerves.
- Brain Injuries: It is the worst case possible as a result of oxygen deprivation. The injury can be followed by chronic seizures and/or cerebral palsy.
Oxygen deprivation can happen when:
- The physician is unable to supervise the baby correctly after birth
- The infant stays in the birth canal for a longer than the acceptable time
- An umbilical cord issue occurs
Healthcare-Associated Infections or HAI
These kinds of infections are common in patients who are receiving treatment and care for medical or surgical conditions. Invasive devices such as ventilators and catheters, and procedures that are supposedly treating you may be associated with infections if not properly executed and monitored.
Types of HAIs include:
- Central Line-Associated Bloodstream Infection or CLABSI: This serious infection happens when bacteria enters your bloodstream through the central line. A central line is a long flexible tube that is placed in a large vein close to the heart. This kind of infection has brought about thousands of deaths each year.
- Catheter-Associated Urinary Tract Infections or CAUTI: Urinary tract infection, the most common type of HAI, can happen to any part of the urinary system such as the bladder, kidney, urethra, and ureters. The major contributor to this is using a urinary catheter for an extended period. A catheter is a thin tube used on patients to drain urine. It is inserted to your bladder through the urethra. It must be used for appropriate indications and should be removed immediately out of the patient when it is no longer needed.
- Ventilator-Associated Pneumonia or VAP: This infection develops among patients who are on ventilators. A ventilator is a medical device used to help patients breathe by delivering oxygen through a tube. The tube is inserted in the nose or mouth through a hole located in the front of the patient’s neck. When bacteria infiltrates the tube to the lungs, infection happens.
- Surgical Site Infection or SSI: This type of infection occurs on the area or location where the surgery was executed on the body. Some cases only involve the skin, but tissues under it, organs, or implanted material may also be involved.
These can be acquired in all care settings, such as:
- Ambulatory surgical centers
- Dialysis facilities
- Acute care hospitals
- Long-term facilities
- Outpatient care
Not all surgical errors account for medical malpractice. For it to be considered malpractice is when the error is the actual and proximate contributor to the harm. These errors are called “never events,” which include leaving an object inside the patient or conducting the operation on the wrong patient. Common reasons why surgical errors happen:
- The surgeon may have failed to inform the nurse on the correct dosage, or incorrect location of the body was noted.
- The surgeon may be fatigued and not sufficiently prepared to perform the surgery.
- The surgeon may be inexperienced.
Before the operation, the right equipment should already be prepared and sterilized. It is imperative that the surgeon has already gone through your record to be aware of what possible complications could arise.
There are things that can be done to prevent such errors, such as researching the medical facility and find how they rate in terms of their services. Check for the signs of overworked staff, which is common in an understaffed facility. Avoid those environments as the chances of experiencing medical errors is high. Lastly, aside from your doctors and the facility, be more well-informed about your own health. Educating yourself will prepare you to identify inconsistencies and spot medical errors when they happen.