The Las Vegas Sun revealed that there were 1,363 cases of preventable medical mistakes in acute-care centers across Nevada, but only 402 of these medical errors were officially reported. The State Division chief examined recent records and discovered 342 of these mistakes in the second half of 2009 alone, but only 44 were reported, according to kolotv.com.
The underreporting of preventable medical errors is a major issue not only in Nevada, but across the country. Many states are not legally obligated to report these types of mistakes so the statistics currently available may be a gross underrepresentation of the problem.
What we do know is that, just based on the current reported data, preventable medical errors are the sixth biggest killer of Americans. Over 100,000 people in the U.S. have died due to medical mistakes, according to justice.org. Now imagine if all 50 states were legally required to report all preventable medical mistakes. This problem could quickly reveal itself to be an epidemic.
What’s truly disturbing is the fact that (as the name implies) these mistakes are preventable. The injuries and loss of life could be avoided if more diligence was applied before and after care. For example, utilizing a “safe surgery check list” to make sure all surgical instruments are accounted for could reduce the number of errors involving sponges, needles, and clamps left inside a patient (nearly 1,500 people suffer this type of injury every year).
I highly respect all of our doctors, surgeons, and medical professionals but it is just plain wrong to underreport these medical mistakes. We need to fully understand the scope of the problem so we can appropriately determine what needs to be done to cut down on these preventable errors.