The Hospital Harm Factor

Written by: Beth Levine

The very first principle of the Hippocratic Oath, which all doctors swear to, is: “First do no harm.” We need to insist that our health care system adheres to that principle. The way things stand right now, it’s downright scary the number of patients who are harmed — sometimes even killed — as a result of problems with the care in hospitals today.

Yet one more study, this time focused on those who receive their health care through Medicare, recently found that one out of every seven people admitted to the hospital is hurt in one way or another by the medical staff. The research was conducted by the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services and looked at patient records from hospitals across the country.

These so-called “adverse events” were estimated to contribute to the deaths of approximately 180,000 people each year in the United States. If true, that would make hospitals the third leading cause of death, after heart disease and cancer.

Aside from dying, the lesser problems routinely experienced by hospital patients included infections, reactions to medications, poor patient care such as issues with intravenous fluids, and post-surgical mishaps. As if all of those possibilities aren’t scary enough to the poor souls who have to be hospitalized, the report said nearly half of these instances should never have taken place. The researchers classified 44% of the problems as “clearly or likely preventable.” >

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