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There have been recent blogs on InjuryBoard about the Chamber of Commerce’s attacks on the tort system. That attacks are often point to medical malpractice – most often to insinuate your health care provider could not have erred. They go on to let you know that even if he did err and you were injured that tort system is out of whack and crazy lawyers are the cause of the problem. That is an interesting spin on another’s mistake. To conclude, these tort reformers would have you believe that doctors are leaving the practice because of lawyers. Other blogs have given you the statistics to demonstrate that the Chamber is just off base and using fear to try to change a system that works.

The facts are medical errors occur- just like automobile wrecks occur. Medical providers run stop signs. This past Sunday Parade Magazine published an article by Dr. Ranit Mishori which cited a study by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s. That study found the nearly 98,000 Americans die each year due to medical errors. There are many reasons for the increase in deaths and injuries at the hands of the very people who are there to care for you. Reduced staffing is one reason. For example, the lower the nurse to patient ratio is, the higher the incident rate of bed sores. It is as simple as the need to move patients in bed. If patients are not moved because of lack of staff, they are more at risk for bedsores which can lead to serious infections. (see my blog of January 12, 2009 “Pressure Ulcers Are Preventable: Medicare and Medicaid Agree”)

Dr. Mishori makes several suggestions to patients to help reduce the risk of injury at the hands of your health care provider. Surgery: Ask about taking antibiotics to reduce risk of infection; ask about clot preventing measures during and after surgery; and speak up to let your doctor know if something is wrong or if you have a question. Medication errors: let the doctor know if you have allergies; have a list of all your medications; make sure the nurse is giving you the right medicine; and when you leave get a list of all the medications you received. Bedsores: change your position at least every two hours even if the staff does not do it for you; check for redness or sores; keep your skin dry; and ask about special mattresses and other devices to reduce pressure.

The effects of medical errors are enormous and can be life changing and even life ending. Do what you can do to protect yourself.

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