Statistics on Hospital Errors Might Be Misleading

By Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo & Plotkin LLP

Headlines highlighted a recent study which concluded that medical errors are the third leading cause of death. But this study and these headlines do not tell the whole picture. The study does not propound any new information or knowledge.

To arrive at their results, the researchers averaged error-related death rates from four prior studies and extrapolated the values to apply to hospital errors today. The researchers did not study original patient records. They conducted a study of other studies. Studies of studies are critical because they help synthesize information, but the results are not new or ground-breaking ? it is simply a rehashing of previously discovered information.

Also, consider how the researchers defined “medical error.” The study defines medical error as any action “that does not achieve its intended outcome” or any planned action that, for whatever reason, is not done “that may or may not cause harm to the patient.” This definition is impressively broad. It entails every single action that did not achieve its goal. The doctor could take correct actions throughout the whole process and still not achieve the desired result. Under this study, that doctor committed a medical error.

When you think about “error” or “mistake” you intuitively understand it to mean that a particular situation could have been handled differently and better with different actions. The definition contained in this study does not account for possible alternative actions; it simply lumps all actions together.

If you suffered an injury due to a hospital’s error, then you may want to speak to an attorney. Suing a hospital is not easy nor is it straightforward. Hospitals are a conglomeration of entities like independent doctors and medical groups. The interrelationship between hospitals, their staff and outside persons that rent space is complicated, and all of these groups have an interest in confusing the issues. An attorney can cut through the paperwork to get to the point of your lawsuit.

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