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Hospital errors: Can you prevent them?

In Maryland, Washington, D.C., and surrounding regions, there are many hospitals, urgent care centers and other medical facilities. On any given day, emergency rooms, operating rooms and patient rooms might be filled to capacity with infants, teens and adults in need of various types of medical care and/or recovering from recent procedures. Sadly, due to hospital errors, many people wind up in worse condition after treatment or surgery than they were in when they arrived.

Every year, thousands of people die and others suffer severe injury or illness in situations that should have been easily preventable. Miscommunication, failure to adhere to procedural regulations and other forms of negligence are causal factors in many medical malpractice incidents.

Proactive patients often avert devastation

If you are in need of urgent medical care or you have scheduled a surgery, you have the right to reasonably assume that those to whom you've entrusted your care will perform their duties according to the highest level of accepted safety standards. Since this does not always happen, the following tips may help you prevent harmful medical mistakes:

· Choose carefully: Studies show undergoing treatment at a facility with many cases similar to yours increases your chances of a successful outcome.

· Confirm surgery site: You might be surprised to learn that among the most frequent medical mistakes reported every year, wrong site surgeries rank high on the list. Patients can request confirmation that all those involved in their surgeries are aware of the proper location on their bodies where surgeries are set to occur.

· Offer full disclosure: Doctors and nurses might not know about a particular medication, dietary supplement, herbs or vitamins you've taken unless you tell them. Such disclosure helps them provide maximum quality care.

· Make sure hands are clean: If you have reason to believe the medical staff member about to care for you has not washed his or her hands, by all means, you may request they do so to avoid potentially dangerous germs.

Asking questions, confirming details and making certain there is clarity on any instructions given upon release from the hospital are other ways many people have been able to lower their risk for injuries due to hospital errors.

When diligence isn't enough

As a patient, there's only so much you can do to protect yourself from hospital negligence. You are certainly not obligated to make sure every nurse, doctor, surgeon or other staff member is doing what he or she should be doing to keep you safe. In fact, many injuries occur during surgeries while patients are unconscious and they do not discover their injuries until much later!

Whether you took your child to the hospital for care or you have personally undergone some type of treatment that resulted in further illness or injury because of medical negligence, you can ask the court to hold those responsible legally accountable for their actions. Although it can not turn back the hands of time and undo the harm that's been done, filing a medical malpractice claim may provide monetary compensation as recovery for your losses.

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