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Medical harm is an ongoing issue


Many New Jersey readers probably don't know about a 15-year-old report by the institute of Medicine that called for reform in the way medical safety issues are handled and reported. The study showed that medical errors were responsible for an increasing number of patient injuries and even deaths. Currently, little seems to have changed, and some experts in the field feel that this issue is not receiving the attention it deserves.

Some experts say that patient harm is actually the third most common cause of death in the United States. Some are calling to require that the CDC, which now collects information about infections acquired in the hospital, to begin keeping track of issues such as medication errors and missed or incorrect diagnoses. Evidence in a recent report says that up to 400,000 hospital deaths each year may be preventable.

It is suggested that lawmakers create a National Patient Safety Board that is charged with investigating patient harm. A patient bill of rights has also been proposed. It would contain protections that are similar to those that are already in place for minority groups and workers.

Injuries due to medical error may be life changing for a patient. The consequences of the injury can lead to a loss of income, unpaid medical bills and the need to retrain for a new job. In some cases, death may occur, and this can leave a family without a major breadwinner. Individuals or families who find themselves struggling due to alleged medical errors may be able to collect damages that cover lost wages, unpaid medical bills and ongoing medical procedures required to treat the injury.