Dr. Danielle Ofri, an internist for more than 20 years at Bellevue Hospital in New York City, says medical errors pose a bigger threat to the health and lives of patients than anyone really knows. She has written a book on the subject, “When We Do Harm.”
Ofri says many medical mistakes are not reported because they are categorized as “near misses” – cases in which patients did not suffer a negative outcome. Because near misses are not reported, she said, it is impossible to track the issues that led to the mistakes. The system discourages identifying the causes of errors, meaning they will be repeated again and again.
Even apparently simple solutions fail, according to Ofri. She noted that a checklist for operating room personnel proved ineffective in Canada. People checked the boxes “to make them go away,” she said, because they had other, far more important tasks.
Advice for Protecting Patients
First, Ofri said, reporting near misses is essential to improving the system. Medical practitioners cannot prevent medical errors if they do not know where to concentrate their efforts.
Patients must also must take an active role. They should ask questions and record everything they are told in a notebook. What is a medication for? What are the side effects? How does it interact with other drugs? It is part of a health professional’s job to answer your questions, regardless of whether he or she is busy. If you do not receive satisfactory answers, pursue action through the hospital’s patient advocacy office, an ombudsman or your insurance company. The bottom line: You have the right to say, “I need to know what’s going on.”
Your rights when you become a victim
It’s unlikely that you or anyone in your family is a medical expert. You can ask questions, observe and take notes. You can still get lost in the health care jargon that is its own language. If an error is made, it’s unlikely that medical personnel are going to admit it because doctors and nurses do not want to lose their licenses or jobs. A hospital will hide behind its lawyers.
In addition to your health crisis, you may be dealing with financial stress because you are unable to work and provide for your family. An insurance company will try to take advantage of you by making a settlement offer that is inadequate for meeting your current and future expenses.
The medical malpractice lawyers at Cherundolo Law Firm PLLC in Syracuse have been helping patients just like you throughout central New York since 2013. We have the expertise to independently investigate your case and hold someone responsible for your injuries. Our lawyers know how to stand up to hospital administrators and insurance companies. We will pursue fair financial compensation for you and your family. Contact us today for a free consultation.