In a recent op-ed in The New York Times, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a CNN contributor, explored the relationship between the increase in treatments and tests ordered by physicians and the potentially corresponding rise in the number of medical errors made by doctors. Unfortunately, often when doctors make a mistake, the consequences are damaging or life threatening for the patient involved. Gupta argues that some of these devastating mistakes could be avoided if physicians ceased ordering unnecessary treatments.
Medical errors, often caused by physician or hospital negligence, are a serious concern in the United States. In 1999, the Institute of Medicine reported that approximately 98,000 people died annually as a result of medical errors. While Gupta notes figures that are more recent are not easily available, he estimates that about 200,000 individuals die each year because of medical mistakes. “That would make them one of the leading causes of death in the United States,” he posits.
Gupta points out the fact that as the number of treatments and tests performed increase, the likelihood of physician errors also rise. Most shockingly, it is not uncommon for doctors to order tests or perform treatments that are unnecessary. According to a survey of orthopedic surgeons, of all the tests they order to be performed on their patients, 24 percent are not “medically necessary.” Gupta notes the hazards of such a practice, writing, “CT and M.R.I. scans can lead to false positives and unnecessary operations, which carry the risk of complications like infections and bleeding.”
To avoid these potentially deadly mistakes, hospitals have implemented various policies, such as completing a checklist prior to beginning surgery to avoid surgical errors such as operating on the wrong body part. Nevertheless, physician errors continue to occur, causing serious harm to their patients, at times. Those who have suffered injuries at the hand of their doctor should be aware that legal remedies might be available to them.
Source: The New York Times, “More Treatment, More Mistakes,” Sanjay Gupta, July 31, 2012.
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