Society expects physicians and the medical community to be perfect. Unfortunately, that is not a realistic expectation, and serious errors occur in hospitals on a daily basis.
Tracking down the causes of medical errors is often a challenging process that involves investigations and legal actions.
Issues that contribute to medical errors
A Time article reports that about 30% of medical malpractice claims are the result of diagnostic errors. In 2017, surgeons either operated on the wrong patient, operated on the wrong body part or performed the incorrect procedure 95 times. Medical errors sometimes result in tragic consequences, as in one case that contributed to the development of cerebral palsy in a patient. Common causes of errors include the following:
- Fatigue of medical staff
- Poor communication among staff
- A culture that denies accountability
- Inadequate hygiene that leads to infections
Determining why medical mistakes happen is critical because it is the among the best hopes for reducing their numbers. Experts point a finger at a medical culture that claims perfection and often tries to hide the presence of mistakes.
Shame leads to hiding mistakes
An NPR report quotes a medical professional at a major hospital that the total number of medical mistakes might always remain a mystery. Many errors go unreported and many “near misses” receive little or no attention at all. The medical professional believes that shame and guilt prevent the reporting of many errors. Perhaps just as importantly, doctors who commit mistakes might suffer a crisis of confidence that leads to diminished performance at their profession. In the end, part of the solution rests with the patient and the patient’s advocates to remain vigilant during any medical procedure.