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Increase in medical procedures to blame for increase in errors

The medical landscape in Florida and across the country has changed dramatically in the past several years. With increased transparency into hospitals and doctors comes an increased level of responsibility and accountability. As techniques and procedures get more sophisticated, they also become more accessible. There is a distinct connection to an increase in medical procedures to an increase in medical malpractice instances.

A recent article by Dr. Sanjay Gupta suggests that there are over 200,000 fatalities every year that result from medical mistakes. This enormous number, he says, may be the result of defensive medicine and extremely high number of procedures that doctors perform.

Defensive medicine, Gupta states, is the practice of ordering unnecessary drugs or tests in an attempt to avoid mistakes. Doctors may order more tests because they want to cover their bases and avoid a lawsuit. In fact, a survey of orthopedic surgeons says that nearly 25 percent of them have ordered tests that served no real purpose to a patient. However, all these unnecessary tests and drugs simply increase the number of factors that could go wrong. This practice of defensive medicine serves the doctor more than the patient.

Another reason for the staggering number of fatal medical errors may be linked to the number of procedures doctors perform. With more procedures come more stress and more distractions. This could lead, then, to more medical mistakes.

There have been some efforts to lower the number of avoidable errors in the hospital. From not disturbing nurses who are administering medicine to medication software that warns of possible dangerous interactions, the solutions are focused on tackling simple errors first. Routine procedures and medical treatments shouldn't result in fatalities in patients.

Still, however, the issue persists that some patients are unknowingly being treated by irresponsible or overworked physicians. If a medical error leads to a serious injury or death, the person responsible for the mistake should be held accountable. By making sure that negligent parties are held liable for medical malpractice, hopefully the mistake will not be made again.

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

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