Hot off the press and making waves in the headlines is the latest study on medical errors published in the international medical journal, BMJ. The article suggests that such errors may rank third, behind cancer and heart disease, as a leading cause of death in the United States. Although the study did not include Canada, the implications are worrisome.
Accurate data in our country is surprisingly hard to come by. The last major study on adults was conducted over a decade ago in 2004. The results therein suggest that 7.5% of adult hospital patients - or about 185,000 of Canada's population at the time - suffered a serious adverse event while seeking medical care, many of such events being preventable.
A later study published in 2013 suggests that rates are even higher among pediatric patients. Often not reflected in studies are incidents involving other populations such as psychiatric patients, residents of nursing homes and clients of paramedical practitioners. As such, studies are likely to represent only the tip of the iceberg.
The variety of adverse events and medical errors is wide-ranging and the reasons are not always directly discernible. Overwork, device malfunction and outright negligence are among the more obvious causes. Lack of government-mandated reporting, hospital administration dynamics, and underfunded research, internal training and public awareness are other possible underlying political and societal factors that may be contributing to the problem as a whole.
Amid the current atmosphere, determining liability and seeking compensation through a medical malpractice suit is difficult. Those injured while seeking medical care are wise to consult with a lawyer who has extensive experience investigating and navigating the challenges and complexities of advancing medical malpractice claims.
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