Counseling You Through Life's Difficult Times

Doctor errors are frighteningly common

Hospital patients in Maryland have little choice but to trust their doctors’ diagnoses and treatment plans. Unfortunately, that trust can sometimes be misplaced. According to one medical professional, doctor errors in hospitals occur far more often than health care providers are willing to admit.

Dr. Danielle Ofri recently published a book detailing the problem of doctor errors and near misses in hospitals. Near misses refer to errors that were identified and corrected, causing the patient no harm. However, Dr. Ofri says those near misses are a big problem and must be identified. She claims that shame and guilt keep many doctors from admitting to mistakes that did not harm anyone, even though those same mistakes might slip by unnoticed later on.

In her book, Dr. Ofri recounted one of her own near miss experiences in which she almost sent a patient whose brain was bleeding back to the nursing home. Someone else identified the error, the woman was immediately taken to surgery and survived without issue. But that one near miss branched out into problems for other patients. Distracted and feeling guilty about the experience, Dr. Ofri says she spent the next several weeks in a brain fog, and made several more errors.

Part of the problem is that near misses are rarely — if ever — reported. This means that they cannot be studied or even counted toward doctor error statistics, which are already underreported as is. This lack of information makes it difficult for Maryland patients to exercise choice in where they receive care and can lead to serious injury or illness. For a victim who has suffered because of doctor errors, it might be necessary to address those injuries through a carefully pursued medical malpractice lawsuit.