Two studies find causes of preventable medical mistakes

At some point, most people will seek medical treatment or require medical attention at a hospital. They will expect that the care they receive will be top-notch as they put their lives in the hands of doctors, surgeons and other medical professionals. Yet, despite the advances in medical technology and the measures hospitals take to prevent medical mistakes, those mistakes still happen.

Residents of New Jersey may find two studies on preventable drug-related mix-ups interesting.

First study: Errors during epidural and intrathecal interventions

In the first study, a researcher examined incidents of epidural or intrathecal (spinal cord) interventions. He found thirty-four published cases of drug errors in obstetric and non-obstetric procedures and 13 cases of errors during pregnancy.

Errors occurred during intrathecal interventions, which resulted in patients experiencing convulsions, ventricular fibrillation and death. Further, it was found that syringes were swapped, unlabeled or labeled incorrectly, and there was confusion about catheters and IVs.

Second study: Errors after delivery

In the second study, only obstetric cases were researched. The researcher found that most errors occurred after a baby was delivered and in elective setting. Most causes of the errors were ampule mix-ups, failure on the part of the hospital staff and doctors to check the drug being administered, and confusion over infusion bags, catheters and IV lines.

Lack of education, fatigue, poor lighting, and the supply and storage of medications played a significant role in causing the errors. The study cited that a woman died because she received the wrong drug. Some solutions to prevent such errors included using color-coded labels and electronic bar codes on prefilled syringes, solving connector incompatibilities with epidural and IV injections, and putting written systems in place for checking the drugs.

When medical errors occur

From the studies above, it is clear that despite efforts to minimize medical errors, they still happen. Doctors, nurses, hospitals and other healthcare providers have an on-going duty to provide a reasonable standard of care. When this duty is breached due to an error such as giving the wrong drug or wrong dosage, the healthcare provider may be held liable for any harm or death resulting from the negligent act.

Patients who have suffered harm or those who have experienced the death of a loved one may be entitled to compensation. This may include future and past medical expenses, lost wages, loss of consortium, loss of earning capacity, funeral expenses and more.

Source: Anesthesiology News, “Review of Avoidable Regional Errors Exposes Shocking Lapses,” Tinker Ready, Sept. 11, 2012

Posted in: Medical Malpractice