QUANTIFYING THE COST OF MEDICAL MALPRACTICE

When New York residents visit their physician or are admitted to the hospital, there is an expectation of professionalism. People want to trust that health care professionals know what they are doing at all times and are always on guard against potential mistakes. Unfortunately, doctor errors and medical malpractice are nothing new. Sometimes a dramatic case, such as mistaken identity leading to an unnecessary amputation or procedure, offers a sensational reminder to the news media, but most people are unaware of the full extent of the problem.

A report published in a past issue of Health Affairs sought to quantify the problem. It estimated that more than 250,000 deaths occur each year due to physicians' actions. Some deaths were caused by post-operative infection, but the largest category of medical errors reportedly involves drug mistakes. The total number of those affected by medication errors is around 1.5 million people a year.

Overall, the report states that medical mistakes cost the nation $17 billion per year. An updated analysis by the National Priorities Partnership put the cost of medication errors alone at $21 billion per year.

New York residents should not have to worry about whether they can trust their doctors, but unfortunately this is increasingly a cause of concern. The hidden costs of health care are too often borne by patients injured due to medical errors, facing the long-term impact of worsened conditions, permanent disability and even death. Even minor injuries caused by negligent prescription of medications can result in further medical expenses and out-of-pocket costs for the patient. An attorney with experience in medical malpractice may be able to help injured patients and their families receive just compensation after being the victim of a medical mistake.

Source: Voxxi, "Medical errors costing the nation lives and more than $17B annually," Hope Gillette, Jan. 22, 2013

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