Harmed by Healthcare Mistakes

Injured Old Man

20 Years Later: Healthcare is Failing, and Medical Errors are Rising

The highly received report To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System is now 20 years old, and unfortunately, not enough lessons have been learned to prevent known medical mistakes. Experts recently spoke with HealthLeaders reporters and shared concerns that patient safety is still largely in question as patient deaths due to medical errors now round out around 444,000 lives each year, an increase from 98,000 at the time the 1999 report was made. By those numbers, it remains obvious that advancements to keep patients safe from preventable injuries is still needed.

On November 27, 2019, the experts interviewed by HealthLeaders raised these stifling conclusions related to medical error trends and the rise in deaths resulting from a lack of patient safety in the American healthcare system.

  • “There have been advances, but they are not enough.”
  • There has been some progress, most strikingly in the declines of healthcare-acquired infections such as central line-associated bloodstream infections. However, from the perspective of 20 years, there is some disappointment.”
  • “One of the biggest advances we have made is the process of double checking such as the surgical checklist developed by Martin Makary at Johns Hopkins.”
  • “At hospitals, which are complicated organizations that often have thousands of employees, there may only be 30 people who are trained in improvement skills. That is not enough to solve all of the problems and challenges that healthcare organizations encounter every day.”
  • “We need to help physicians with artificial intelligence and analytics. Artificial intelligence is not going to tell doctors what to do, but it will be like flying a plane; if a pilot mistakenly does something wrong, an alert system comes on and says, “Are you sure you want to do this?” We don’t have that in medicine.”
  • “One area where we are lagging is data.”
  • We need to aim higher—not just aim for better—and go for zero harm. We need to make healthcare as safe as established high-reliability organizations such as commercial airlines or the nuclear power industry.”
  • The focus on consistent excellence that creates the ability to reach zero harm means that you would have an organization that is focused on consistent excellence in all areas.”

Today, about 1 in 10 patients will be harmed in the course of their medical care, half of which will be caused by preventable mistakes or acts of malpractice. Patients injuries or death may stem from:

  • A hospital choosing to reduce staffing or hours of monitoring at medical facilities
  • Failure to hire and train skilled medical workers
  • Not following medical guidelines or Illinois laws
  • Unethical and neglectful procedures
  • Doctors who practice non-standard methods

And even 20 years later, communication breakdowns between medical staff, technology, and physician burnout remain significant preventable harms which contribute to an increase in medical mistakes.

How Does Illinois Rank for Medical Malpractice?

Medical malpractice and mistakes in patient safety can happen in any healthcare setting. Still, in 2019, five Chicago-area hospitals made a watchdog’s D-list and ranked alongside some of the nation’s most dangerous medical centers. Those Illinois hospitals included Jackson Park, John H. Stroger Jr., Loretto, Sinai Hospital, and Weiss Memorial.

Illinois is currently ranked no. 46 for malpractice payouts and no. 49 for malpractice insurance rates with the malpractice award payout per capita (around $2,350) the sixth highest in the country by researchers in a March 25, 2019 report by WalletHub. These preventable medical errors cost $29 billion per year and are too often the result of things like:

  • Reduced staffing or hours of monitoring at medical facilities
  • Failure to hire and train skilled medical workers
  • Not following medical guidelines or Illinois laws
  • Unethical and neglectful procedures
  • Doctors who practice non-standard methods

While other acts may be unintentional, there is never a legitimate excuse for a medical worker’s blatant carelessness whether they are a trained and experienced physician or surgical technician.

Levin & Perconti Case Study: In 2017, Levin & Perconti settled a medical malpractice lawsuit against Mt. Sinai Hospital, recovering $3.6 million for the estate of Alberto Mendez, who died after improperly administered anesthesia after a cascade of medical oversights. Mr. Mendez’s estate was represented by founding partner Steven Levin, partner Margaret Battersby-Black and associate Jaime Koziol.

While Mr. Mendez was prepped for surgery, his anesthesiologist, referred to a 12-hour old potassium level test and administered a drug that is specifically not recommended for patients with elevated potassium levels. The paralytic anesthetic, succinylcholine, caused Mr. Mendez to go into cardiac arrest 30 minutes after it was administered. He passed away 28 hours after his admission to Mt. Sinai. Delayed tests, improper monitoring, and medication error all contributed to Mr. Mendez’s unfortunate death at Mt. Sinai. Had Mr. Mendez’s worsening symptoms been evaluated and treated promptly, he likely would have survived. The anesthesiologist ultimately paid $2 million, the university (Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science) who supplied the residents that initially evaluated Mr. Mendez contributed $1 million, and surgeon Hasmukh Patel contributed $600,000.

Medical malpractice lawsuits can be very costly to litigate and difficult for all of those involved, so it is crucial for a patient (or their family member) to work with a legal team equipped with the resources to spend every dollar necessary to prosecute the case successfully.

Medical Malpractice and Patient Injury Lawyers 

If you or a family member are the victim of a medical error or medical negligence of any kind, please let us fight for you. We can conduct a free, no-obligation analysis of your situation, to reveal your potential reimbursement for the harm caused by medical malpractice while we work on a contingent fee basis. That means that you pay us nothing unless your case comes to a successful resolution, a settlement or verdict in your favor.

To request a meeting with one of our medical malpractice attorneys, please call us at 312-332-2872.

Also read: Levin & Perconti Recognized for Work on Medical Malpractice Cases


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