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Medicine - The Silent Killer (What is Medical Malpractice)

Updated on February 19, 2010
Not even doctors are perfect - mistakes happen
Not even doctors are perfect - mistakes happen

The Shocking Truth About Medical Errors


The Silent Killer - Medicine

If you were asked to name the biggest threats to our safety in America you might respond with “terrorism”, “guns” or even “illegal drugs”. You would be correct that those three pose a risk to American lives, but you might also be surprised to find that there is an even bigger killer lurking in the shadows – medical errors. While it is extremely difficult to accurately determine the exact number of deaths attributable to medical errors, the statistics are as high as 200,000 people a year or more – that’s about 400 jumbo jets full of people dying each year from medical errors. Just to put that in perspective, the number of people that died in the terrorist attack in 2001 was about 3,000 and the number of deaths attributable to guns and illegal drugs combined is around 50,000. Experts have called this an epidemic, yet we rarely hear anyone talking about it.

Why isn't anyone screaming and yelling about this?

One reason we don’t hear the outcry over medical errors is also why it’s so hard to accurately account for the number of deaths – doctors don’t want to admit they made a mistake. Why are doctors so reluctant to admit they made a mistake? After all, to err is human right? Doctors may fear that their license will be suspended or that they will be stripped of it altogether. They also fear monetary awards for their negligence that cut into their pocket books. On a more personal level, they may simply fear the stigma attached to making a mistake. After all, doctors are in the business of saving lives, not taking lives. The reality however, is that doctors DO make mistakes – and frequently those mistakes were preventable. Regardless of the reason, the American public is paying the consequences – both in lives and in dollars. One recent study found that the United States spends over $280 billion dollars a year on deaths due to medical mistakes. Another study actually found that figure to be closer to $580 billion dollars. Again, let’s put that figure in perspective. The 2009 Department of Education budget was approximately $160 billion dollars. That means that we are spending considerably more money on medical errors in this country than we are spending on education. Medical errors that could have been, and should have been, prevented.

What can I do if I think I have been the victim of medical malpractice?

Medical negligence is an extremely complicated area of the law. Negligence, in general can be found if the following four elements are ALL present: (1) a duty of care was owed by the physician; (2) the physician violated the applicable standard of care; (3) the person suffered a compensable injury; and (4) the injury was caused in fact and proximately caused by the substandard conduct. The burden of proving these elements is on the plaintiff in a malpractice lawsuit. Not only is the law itself complicated, but obtaining the evidence necessary to prove all four elements can be painstakingly difficult. If you believe that you, or a loved one, have been the victim of a medical error, seek legal advice immediately as most negligence claims have a time frame within which you must file your claim. .



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    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Great hub! thanks for sharing.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Everyone makes mistakes. However, when doctors makes mistakes, a patient could die. There are also patients that want to sue doctors for more than their claim. A happy medium has to be found that satisfies both sides that will make doctors less prone to report mistakes and give proper compensation to patients that have been harmed. Thanks!

    • profile image

      DePuy Pinnacle Lawsuit 

      7 years ago

      Its scary to know that a lot of doctors make mistakes when performing medical and surgical procedures. I hope there won't be any complications from my DePuy Pinnacle hip replacement.

    • leigia67 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago's scary isn't it? Really makes you consider leaving the country for a second opinion doesn't it?

    • jordan Miller profile image

      jordan Miller 

      7 years ago

      With the nationalization of electronic medical records, doctors are including flags on any patients record who is a possible malpractice case. Any doctor they see in the future will see this and then cover up for the doctors before them. It is now impossible for any of us to ever get a valid second opinion again.

      If anyone has any ideas on how any of us can get valid second opinions now with this new system, please add a comment.

    • leigia67 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Sue - thanks for sharing all of that! I know that doctor's are seriously chastized by other doctors when they make a mistake - it's the same for lawyers. I think we fear that our reputations will be tarnished more than anything. Sadly, he system is not set up for doctor's to be able to make mistakes. If they admit it - the the patient, then they may lose their license. I think the system encourages them to cover up mistakes. And of course the patients pay the price. As for your situation, how frustrating! Misdiagnosis has got to be frustrating and as for Medicare paying, well our health care system in general is a joke...but that's a subject for another Hub!

    • Sue Real profile image

      Sue Real 

      8 years ago from So close to Canada, I can smell the bacon.

      I once worked in a hospital in New York City, one with a big name and reputation. (Which I will not mention for obvious reasons). I was in charge of the preparation of what is called the "M & M" report. (Which are the Morbidity and Mortality reports) Once a week the residents, interns and attending physicians would have a meeting to review the cases of the week. They would talk about various operations they performed. Of course, the ones that went well could brag about their achievements. It was a teaching institution, so everyone could get the benefit of observing the work of other surgeons. Sometimes they would just have sessions to compare gun shot wounds in America to those in other countries for educational purposes, or other topics of interest.

      However, the operations that did not end successfully, brought the Doctors involved to

      undergo, in front of his or her colleagues, being torn apart by the stern chastisements of the Chiefs. So doctors do not really get off easily but I am sure you would never get them to admit the screw-ups because of legal ramifications.

      I was witness to some very emotional sessions and one can only hope that these doctors learned from their mistakes. Besides they would not have the credibility they need from the public to maintain their departments and to receive research grants.

      Personally, I have been misdiagnosed for years. I used to live in NYC and went to several of the top MD's in Endocrinology, General Medicine and Internists. Yet they all missed the fact that I had Lymphedema and Lipedema,

      They looked at me and said, "Go on a diet". Well I did.

      In addition, I lost 200 pounds on Dr. Atkins diet. Yet those parts of my body that were affected by Lymphedema and Lipedema remained the same. I am now living in VT and finally got some attention and a proper diagnosis. The Lipedema is a disease of the fat cells. The appearance of

      being overweight does not go away, it must be surgically removed. As for the Lymphedema, there is a treatment where the Occupational Therapist massages the area such as the upper arm and then bandages this area tightly. When they feel after a series of treatments, that they have gotten enough water out, then the patient is given compression garments. It is a very slow process and I feel very bad for people who have this and do not know it and are constantly harassed because they are overweight. Thinking it is something they are eating that is causing the problem.

      That is not true. I was once in rehab and lost 80 pounds in 4 months because of the treatment, but I ate a normal diet.

      It is the fluid retention that gives the appearance of being obese. I have heard that many people, especially women have committed suicide because they tried everything to take off the pounds but it was not their fault. Many people get this condition after surgery or heart failure.

      However, the sad part is that Medicare will not pay for much of this treatment and of course not for the compression garments. So the entire system is mess, there are not enough researchers in the US who care about what they think are "fat people".

      Thank you for your article. The only way to help the situation is to spread the word.

    • nancy_30 profile image


      8 years ago from Georgia

      I enjoyed reading your hub. Your right everybody makes mistakes, even doctors, they just don't want to admit it.


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