If you’re like many in the United States, you’ve been the victim of a medical error or know someone who has. Forty-two percent of Americans have been personally affected by medical errors, according to a nationwide survey by the National Patient Safety Foundation, a division of the American Medical Association.
These errors can range from the serious to the minor–from a doctor making the wrong diagnosis or prescribing the wrong medicine to a radiologist misinterpreting X-rays or mammograms, leading to invasive, unnecessary tests. Medical errors can also be life-threatening. They lead to between 44,000 and 98,000 deaths each year, according to an Institute of Medicine report. In the National Patient Safety Foundation study, 32% of those who had experienced medical mistakes said the error had a permanent negative effect on their health.
One such mistake brought 7-year-old Jacqueline Ley of Minneapolis to the edge of death last year. After surgery to mend a shattered elbow bone at a top-ranked hospital, Ley was put on a morphine pump that was attached to an alarm that sounded if the dosage was too high. On the third night, nurses told the family they had turned the pump off because the young girl’s pain had lessened. But Jacqueline’s mother, Carol Ley, realized something had gone terribly wrong when she woke up that night. She was sleeping on a cot near her daughter. Jacqueline was breathing so shallowly that she almost didn’t seem to be breathing at all.
Carol Ley, a physician, immediately acted: She shook her daughter awake. Later, she discovered that the morphine pump had not been turned off at all–but the alarm attached to it had. The greatly increased morphine dose that Jacqueline Ley received that night would have eventually killed her. “It was very distressing,” Carol Ley says now. “But the hospital immediately apologized and reviewed their procedures for using medication pumps and promised it would never happen to anyone else.” Her daughter recovered completely from the medication overdose.
Medical errors lead to between 44,000 and 98,000 deaths each year.
Article by: Barbara Boughton, Medical Writer