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More treatment leads to more medical mistakes

The Institute of Medicine claims that the number of patients dying from medical mistakes in Pennsylvania and across the United States has almost doubled in recent years. Whether or not this is entirely true depends upon the accuracy of statistics generated by each individual state. There is no universal way of making the determination because each state records medical errors differently.

Assuming that what the Institute of Medicine states is correct, it has been theorized that increasing number of fatalities that have occurred in hospitals due to medical mistakes and medication errors is due to the over treating of patients. Patients are being prescribed more prescriptions than in the past, and more MRI screens are being ordered than ever before.

Such over treatment has been justified by hospitals as a way of preventing medical malpractice claims. However, the fact that more medical mistakes are being made rather than less seems to suggest that this assumption is wrong. What has been referred to as defensive medicine by physicians (performing a battery of tests so that no diagnosis can be missed) is actually injuring rather than helping patients.

Minor ailments in particular are a concern when overtreatment is conducted. For example, one patient was treated for mild viral illness and suffered a severe allergic reaction to the antibiotics she was prescribed. She ended up suffering joint pain, and suffered a variety of blisters on her chest and arm.

It's disingenuous of hospitals to blame attorneys rather than their own medical staff for overtreatment that has led to medical mistakes. Ultimately, the physician that makes the mistake is responsible for allowing other considerations than the well being of the patient to be taken into account when making medical decisions.

Source: The New York Times, "More Treatment, More Mistakes," by Sanjay Gupta, July 31, 2012

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