The doctor-patient relationship is one that involves a certain amount of trust, and because physicians undergo so much training, you are probably inclined to believe that whatever your doctor tells you about your condition is accurate. Unfortunately, however, doctors are only human, and they, too, are prone to making mistakes from time to time. When physicians make significant errors, however, it can have a substantial impact on your overall prognosis, which is troubling because medical errors have become particularly commonplace across America.
In fact, according to CNBC, medical mistakes are now so frequent that they have become the third-most common cause of death in the United States after cancer and heart disease. So, just how often are medical errors occurring, and is there anything you can do to help protect yourself?
By the numbers
Statistics indicate that medical mistakes are responsible for about 250,000 deaths every year. However, because coroners and other professionals responsible for supplying cause-of-death information rarely list medical mistakes as a primary cause of death, some believe the true number of annual medical-error related fatalities falls somewhere closer to 440,000.
Types of medical errors
Regrettably, medical and doctor errors can take on numerous different forms. In some instances, medical errors may involve a doctor misdiagnosing a particular condition, or correctly diagnosing the condition, but failing to do so within a timely manner. In other cases, surgeons or surgical assistants make mistakes during surgery that lead to infection, or they may leave sponges or other medical devices or equipment behind in patient bodies, which happens more frequently than you may like to think.
Medication errors, such as administering too much of a certain medication, or administering a certain medication to an incorrect patient, are another common form. In some cases, medical errors are also administrative in nature, meaning they develop because someone, for example, entered the wrong information, dosage or what have you into a computer system.
Anytime a physician recommends a serious course of treatment or diagnoses you with a serious condition, consider obtaining a second opinion. You may, too, want to bring an advocate along with you when you visit your doctor. This person can help you clarify everything your physician tells you.