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Standing Up to Medical Errors in America

Many would be shocked to read this statistic: nearly 200,000 Americans die each year due to medical errors. This is the 3rd leading cause of death in the United States, following heart disease and cancer. As described by Carol E. Gunn, MD in her TEDx talk “Medical Errors: The Silent Killer in Medicine,” this epidemic has gone largely unnoticed in the public eye and is largely the result of improper communication and accountability among doctors.

Dr. Gunn’s presentation illustrates how feedback is rarely given between practicing physicians. Once doctors are granted their medical license and are no longer considered to be “in training,” they are unlikely to continue to receive constructive feedback. As a result, they are likely to continue perpetuating whatever improper practices they may be committing. According to Gunn, this lack of feedback likely arises from a fear of inadvertently insulting a colleague, though it could simply be a product of indifference.

Possibly the most powerful part of Dr. Gunn’s plea for medical accountability was her personal account of her sister Anna’s passing. Despite the fact that Anna had informed her doctors of chest pains that she had been experiencing, her health deteriorated as the result of several misdiagnoses and mistreatments, requiring a coronary stent that would eventually lead to her death. An autopsy revealed that she had been experiencing “ongoing waves” of heart attacks. Anna’s death was preventable and, with proper medical care, could have been caught and treated months in advance.

According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), no real progress has been made to reduce the number of lives lost due to medical error. In fact, is estimated that everyone will experience a substantial error in medical diagnosis in their lifetime. The IOM’s latest report, “Improving Diagnosis in Health Care” suggests that real change will not be made until cultural shifts, improved education, teamwork, and a system for reporting errors are all put in place. Until then, thousands will continue to fall victim to this unfortunate trend.

If you have been a victim of medical malpractice, or if a loved one has unfortunately passed due to an easily preventable medical condition, Rourke and Blumenthal can help you seek compensation. Call our office today at (614) 321-3212 to discuss your case with a Columbus medical malpractice lawyer attorney from our firm.