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529 Medical Errors Reported in the District of Columbia In One Year

Unless you or a loved one has been a victim of medical negligence, you have probably never given much thought to how often medical negligence occurs.  You probably have never considered how preventable the medical negligence was.  The Washington, D.C.'s Department of Health's annual report sheds light on those issues.

The city's Department of Health reported that for the 12 months between July 2007 and June 2008, there were 529 "adverse events" in District of Columbia hospitals and clinics.  At least 14 of these errors resulted in the death of the patient.

The underlying nature of the adverse errors was alarming.  At least seven people died because they were given the wrong medicine or given the wrong dose of medication.  Another adverse event involved surgery performed on the wrong breast of a woman.  Another involved the death of patient who, while in respiratory distress, was hooked up to a ventilator that was broken.

Sadly, the 529 adverse events are probably an understatement of the number of actual medical errors that occurred during the reported 12-month period.  Only 10 of the District's 15 hospitals participated in the report, and only two of the District's 21 nursing homes reported.

So, the next time you hear about a medical malpractice case that has been filed, don't be so quick to judge it as frivolous. Ask questions about its underlying facts.  You might be surprised just how preventable the medical error was and how needless a patient's death or injury was.