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Doctors and surgical mistakes

To put things in perspective, approximately 100,000 deaths occur every year due to medical mistakes. Such errors occur in Pennsylvania and across the country. What we've discovered is that even the best trained of surgeons can have lapses and make surgical errors. For example, one talented surgeon operated on the wrong side of the brain of a patient because he looked at a CAT scan that was hung backwards.

A major problem in the medical profession is that lessons are only learned after a mistake has been made. Yet because such mistakes can often be so devastating in nature most physicians are reluctant to admit to any mistake to begin with.

What physicians often do is meet at teaching hospitals and discuss their errors. Though such meetings can be useful for surgeons, it's important that the physicians understand that the mistakes they have made have had actual consequences to human beings. It was reported that at one such meeting a physician described a surgical mistake in an uncaring manner while another doctor just happened to be reading the obituary of that same patient in the newspaper.

The reason why injured patients hire attorneys and file medical malpractice suits is because many such patients have no other way to continue on with their lives. And such mistakes can have a devastating effect upon other individuals as well. The families of such individuals may be literally pushed to the financial and emotional breaking point.

Medical malpractice can lead to physical disability, brain damage or even death. Those injured by such malpractice may require lifelong care and additional surgical procedures. They may endure pain and suffering that prevents full enjoyment of life. Medical expenses can be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the suffering individual may spend an entire life without being able to earn any money because of what occurred.

If doctors and medical providers understand that there are consequences for their mistakes, perhaps safety protocol will be installed to make certain that mistakes (such as hanging of a Cat scan backwards) will never be made again.

Source: CBS News, "Dr. Sanjay Gupta on combating medical errors," by Sanjay Gupta, March 11, 2012

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