Personal Injury: October 2009 Archives

October 19, 2009

Prescription for Death

Dead by Mistake a recent Hearst Corporation study, estimates that 200,000 Americans will die this year from hospital errors and infections. These preventable errors can affect anyone regardless of age, wealth, previous health history, social status, or level of education. And as personal injury attorneys who help relatives of those victims of wrongful death or malpractice, we have seen the disastrous effects of these mistakes.

Three-week-old Alyssa Shinn was born 14 weeks prematurely and was progressing well until her death following an accidental overdose of zinc (ABC News). At a hospital in Indiana, three babies died after receiving an overdose of heparin.

Michael Hurewitz, a healthy 57-year-old newspaper reporter, entered Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City to donate part of his liver to his brother. He died there from an infection contracted in the hospital after the surgery.

Even the prestigious Massachusetts General Hospital is not immune from error. Trevor Nelson, a 34-year-old producer with the television news show 60 Minutes, was admitted with a headache and fever. He was diagnosed with viral meningitis, a condition that frequently resolves itself within about 10 days even without treatment. However, Nelson was administered frequent high doses of powerful narcotic drugs and died within 15 hours of his hospital admission.

How can you protect yourself if you are hospitalized? Be a partner in your care, not just a passive observer. Ask questions, and check your medications to be sure that you are receiving the correct drugs and dosages. Have employees check your name and compare it to the name on the chart or on their orders before giving you any treatment or taking you for any procedures. Check that hospital employees wash their hands or wear fresh disposable gloves when treating you. And if you are unable to take these measures for yourself, have a family member or friend act as your advocate.

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