Most people know that medical malpractice can happen. They know that doctors make mistakes, for instance, and that patients may pass away from these mistakes or have life-altering injuries. People also know that errors can be made at many levels of care. For example, a nurse could give someone improper medication or a surgeon could operate on the wrong site.
But many people think of these events as very rare occurrences. The vast majority of the time that you go to the hospital, no negative events are going to occur, they believe. And while this may be true in a percentage sense – in that the majority of patients get proper care – medical malpractice actually happens much more often than people know. And it can also be much more serious.
The third leading cause of death
In fact, according to one study, medical malpractice has become the third leading cause of death in the United States. This means that it only does not outrank cancer, which was long No. 1 but which has now fallen to No. 2, and heart disease. All other reasons for death, from car accidents to sickness, happen less often than medical malpractice.
Plus, malpractice can influence these other events. If someone gets sick and is given the wrong medication, they could pass away as a result. It’s true that the sickness was responsible, but so was the doctor who made the medication error.
Non-fatal instances of malpractice
Additionally, this study was only looking at fatal mistakes made by medical professionals. It doesn’t address all of the more minor mistakes that may not lead to a fatality, but which could still leave someone with life-changing injuries. For example, a surgeon who amputates the wrong leg may still have a patient who survives the procedure, but this patient is now going to have a permanent disability.
What can you do next?
You can see just how often these errors happen and how serious they can be. If something like this has happened to your family member, be sure you know what legal options you have. You may be able to seek compensation for things like medical bills, lost wages and other future costs.