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Study Shows Medical Malpractice in Hospitals Common

Despite efforts across the nation to make hospitals safer for patients, a recent study presented in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that little progress has been made in curbing medical malpractice. Dr. Christopher P. Landrigan, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, was the lead author of the study, which analyzed reports from 10 North Carolina hospitals from 2002 to 2007.

Dr. Landrigan's study focused on North Carolina because its hospitals have been more involved in establishing programs to improve patient safety than most states. The study reviewed records of 2,341 patients admitted to urban, rural, small and large medical centers and it found a startling amount of mistakes.

Of the 2,341 patient records reviewed, researchers found 588 incidents in which a patient was harmed by medical care. That amounts to 25.1 patient injuries for every 100 patient admissions to hospitals. Most of the injuries they found were temporary and treatable, but 42.7 percent of the injuries required readmission or extra time in the hospital for treatment of problems like infected surgical incisions.

More than 8 percent of the incidents were life threatening. In 2.9 percent of the injuries, a patient suffered a permanent injury. Additionally, 2.4 percent of the injuries caused or contributed to a patient's death.

A recent study conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services found similar results. That study analyzed the medical files of Medicare beneficiaries who had spent time in a hospital in October 2008. They found that 13.5 percent of Medicare patients suffered a medical mistake and 1.5 percent of Medicare patients experienced a medical error that contributed to or caused death.

When a physician or hospital fails to care for a patient, the results can be life changing. These recent studies show that medical malpractice in hospitals is even more common than we previously had believed. In addition, Dr. Landrigan's study found that 63.1 percent of the medical injuries were entirely preventable. If you or a loved one has been injured by a physician's error or malpractice, an experienced medical malpractice attorney can help inform you of your legal rights.

Source: New York Times, "Study Finds No Progress in Safety at Hospitals," Denise Grady, 11/24/2010

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