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Medication errors not immediately reported to Oregon patients

Oregon readers may be surprised to learn that errors in medical treatment are rarely admitted to patients and their family members. The findings in a recent study are troubling at best, as hospital negligence and medical errors can cause serious patient injury or death.

The study was conducted by The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. It was centered on 840,000 cases in which medication errors were voluntarily reported. The cases involved 537 American hospitals and arose between 1999 and 2005.

Perhaps the most shocking of the findings was that in half of the cases, there was a total lack of action taken on behalf of medical providers. Furthermore, the staff members who made the medical error were informed about the mistake in only 1/3 of cases. The study found that 6.6 percent of medical errors occurred in Intensive Care Units. The remainder of the errors occurred in other areas of the hospital.

The lead author of the study states that in only two percent of cases, the patient and family members were immediately informed of the mistake. The low numbers persist despite literature advocating full patient disclosure and patients’ desires to be informed of their treatment.

The study found the most common mistake was failure to administer medication. Many of the cases resulted in patient death, with the highest number of fatalities happening to patients in critical condition in ICUs.

While Oregon patients can generally rely on the best care from their medical team, the study’s findings undoubtedly show that medical mistakes happen. If people have been injured as the result of a medication error, they may be entitled to file a claim against the responsible parties.

Source: Counsel & Heal, “Errors in treatment rarely admitted to patients,” Jan. 15, 2013