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Medical errors are one of the world’s leading causes of death

A recent health care report suggests that about one in 10 hospital patients in Oklahoma and around the country are harmed because of a medical mistake of some kind. Roughly half of these errors are preventable, and almost a third of them result in the patient’s death. These were just a few of the sobering discoveries that researchers from the World Health Organization made when they looked into the quality of health care available in 36 countries.

According to WHO’s Patient Safety Fact File, medical errors are now one of the world’s leading causes of death. The report reveals that about 2.6 million hospital patients die each year, and more than 130 million suffer harm because of unsafe treatment. In the United States, about 10% of all hospital deaths can be linked directly to some sort of diagnostic error.

Undergoing surgery is particularly hazardous even in countries with modern and well-equipped hospitals according to the WHO report. Unsafe procedures harm about one in four surgery patients, and about 1 million people die each year either during operations or shortly afterward. Deadly infections are also extremely common, but WHO researchers concluded that more than half of them could be prevented by simple measures such as improved hand hygiene. The report praised Medicare hospitals for making patient safety a priority in recent years; these efforts led to cost savings of about $28 billion.

The victims of hospital errors often face an uphill battle when pursuing civil remedies because doctors are rarely eager to admit to making mistakes, and medical facilities and their insurers usually have deep pockets. Personal injury attorneys with experience in this area may seek to overcome these challenges by calling on experts. Expert witnesses might scrutinize medical records and explain to juries how the treatment provided to the plaintiff failed to meet generally accepted health care standards.