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Medical Malpractice a Leading Cause of Death in West Virginia

It’s common knowledge that people die and are needlessly harmed by medical negligence in hospitals ever year.  

Less well known is the extent of this problem. A new article in Forbes magazine makes clear the vast scale of medical malpractice in American hospitals.  And a new Study Says Real Cost of Medical Malpractice is 440,000 Lives a Year.  The influential study by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) called To Err Is Human was published in 1999.

It revealed 98,000 people were dying every year from preventable errors in America’s hospitals.

“This was the ‘Silent Spring’ of the health care world, grabbing headlines for revealing a serious and deadly problem that required policy and action,” reported Forbes.

A new study by the well-respected Journal of Patient Safety suggests this was just the tip of the iceberg.

It reveals that four times as many people die from preventable medical errors than was previously thought, as many as 440,000 a year.

The study does not necessarily indicate hospitals are becoming more dangerous, although it provides no evidence whatsoever that they are becoming safer.

More than a decade ago, the IOM experts lacked solid information to use in calculating the number of fatal errors that were occurring in hospitals.

The Forbes article cites “innovations in research techniques” led by medical experts, which underpins the new study.

The upshot of this research is a staggering conclusion. Medical errors are now the third leading cause of death in the United States.

The number of unnecessary deaths in hospitals eclipses the number of people killed in auto accident, diabetes and everything else besides cancer and heart disease.

“That means hospitals are killing off the equivalent of the entire population of Atlanta one year, Miami the next, then moving to Oakland, and on and on,” reported Forbes.

These deaths are from preventable mistakes. They include surgical sponges left inside patients leading to serious infections and terrible infections from contaminated equipment used at the bedside. Tragically more than a thousand people a day are dying from these kinds of mistakes.

In most cases the cause of death in these cases had no link to the health issue the patients were admitted to the hospital to treat in the first place.

Taxpayers are footing the bill for the doctor mistakes according to the article. “Hospitals shift the extra cost of errors onto the patient, the taxpayer and/or the business that buys health benefits for the infected patient,” reported Forbes.

The injustice doesn’t end there. In many states caps prevent patients who have been injured in hospitals or the relatives of those who die, from recovering the full extent they deserve.

West Virginia limits noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases to $250,000 or $500,000 in cases involving wrongful death or permanent disability. The caps are increased for inflation.

James MacDonald, who was injured in 2004 at West Virginia hospital, unsuccessfully challenged the cap.

Clinical Advisor reported he was admitted to hospital with pneumonia. He had been taking medications due to a previous kidney transplant and a number of other chronic conditions, but the pneumonia medication interacted with his other medications he was taking, causing rhabdomyolysis.

MacDonald and his wife sued the hospital and the doctor who treated him, claiming that the muscle-wasting disease lessened their enjoyment of life and caused considerable suffering. A jury found the doctor and hospital liable and awarded damages of $129,000 for medical expenses and lost wages, as well as $1 million for pain and suffering and $500,000 in pain and suffering damages for MacDonald’s wife.

A circuit court judge cited West Virginia’s cap on non-economic malpractice damages, and reduced the $1.5 million pain and suffering award to $500,000.

Free Consultation with an Experienced Medical Malpractice Lawyer

If you have been injured in a hospital or other medical facility due to medical error, or the negligence of a doctor, surgeon or nurse has led to the injury or death of a loved one, we invite you to contact an experienced West Virginia medical malpractice attorney for a free consultation.  West Virginia medical malpractice laws are complex and make it difficult for the wrongfully injured to recover fair compensation.  We will help you understand your rights and options and fiercely advocate for you and your health.  We are located in Charleston, West Virginia, and our personal injury attorneys represent clients throughout the state and country.  Our toll free number is 1-877-943-WEST (9378).


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