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A few steps that could prevent a life-threatening medical error

Medical mistakes cause somewhere between 44,000 and 98,000 deaths each year in the United States, according to a study by the Institute of Medicine. Some experts believe the true number actually may be much higher. If you or someone you love has been the victim of a medical mistake, you know how frustrating and heartbreaking it can be.

Of the thousands of medical mistakes that occur on a daily basis in this country, wrong-site surgery, postoperative negligence, delays in treatment, and medication errors are the most common. Breakdowns in communication often are the cause of these mistakes, according to the executive director for a state board of medical examiners.

While there is no way to eliminate completely all of these medical errors, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality says there are a few steps that all Americans can take in effort to avoid falling victim to medical malpractice.

One of the steps includes asking your doctor or medical practitioner a list of questions to help make sure you are fully informed about the procedure or medication you have been prescribed. These questions include:

  1. How many times have you performed this medical procedure?
  2. What are possible complications that could arise as a result of this procedure?
  3. Does the medication I have been prescribed interact with any medications I’m already taking?
  4. What’s the exact spelling of the medication I have been prescribed?

According to a state public heath official, asking these simple questions can be life saving and they are all part of a patient’s right to be informed. For those who have already been victimized by medical malpractice or negligence, it might be wise to contact a medical malpractice lawyer who can help determine if you are entitled to compensation.

Source:, “12 News Defenders: Medical Mistakes,” Sally Pitts, July 2, 2013