Medical errors can cause serious long term injuries that can impact a person for the rest of their life. Such errors can also lead to death. It has been shown in come studies that between 44,000 and 98,000 deaths occur every year due to medical mistakes. Unfortunately, some of the errors that cause these injuries or deaths are errors that could have been prevented.
One man, a physician, in Florida lost his leg because of a medical error that occurred 17 years earlier. He first noticed something was wrong when he felt a sudden pain in his left calf. Two months later he needed to have his leg amputated above the knee because blood flow to his leg had been cut off.
His doctors did not have any explanation as to why the blood flow had been cut off. There were not any of the usual risk factors for atherosclerosis, the hardening of the arteries. The man had low cholesterol, did not have diabetes, and never smoked. There were also no other blood vessels blocked in his body. After some more searching as to what may have caused the loss of blood flow to his leg he discovered that when he had surgery on his left Achilles’ tendon 17 years earlier, a pressurized cuff, meant to prevent bleeding during the procedure, that was placed above the knee was left on too long. This injured the arteries and over the years vessels slowly scarred and calcified. This eventually blocked blood flow to his lower leg.
Losing a limb is traumatic and this man, a physician, lost his due to a preventable error. Additionally, this physician had been studying over the past 20 years how to prevent errors in health care. Nobody should have to experience such a preventable injury, but there are many people that do.
Even though there have been adoption of safety programs and patient advocates demanding action be taken to improve matters, there has been no evidence that the number of errors, injuries, and deaths have improved. This is partly because those that deliver the health care have not been able to change the way they do things. Quality and efficiency of health care could be improved. Alarms, shut-off switches, and checklists could be used to limit the number of mistakes made. There are many ways the number of medical errors can be reduced and should this happen the number of medical malpractice claims could be reduced as well.
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