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A careless word may jeopardize your care

If you have suffered from a medical mistake, you may find yourself wondering how this could happen. How could medical professionals, whose jobs are to care for and heal people, make such critical mistakes?

You may be surprised to learn that recent reports estimate that over 250,000 people across the country die each year from medical errors. Without even including nursing home deaths, that figure makes medical mistakes the third leading cause of death in the United States. However, death certificates never indicate medical error as a contributing factor.

A study in kindness

Research has shown that doctors, who often work long shifts with little sleep, blame fatigue for 10 to 20 percent of medical mistakes. Lack of sleep often decreases a person's ability to think clearly and make critical decisions. However, a new study shows a surprisingly different reason why your medical professional may have performed poorly during your care.

Apparently, if you or a member of your family spoke rudely to the doctor, he or she may have caused a cognitive reaction that the doctor couldn't control. According to the study, hearing negative feedback, even if it's unrelated to your care, may interfere with your doctor's ability to reason clearly or make rational decisions. In fact, about 40 percent of medical mistakes can be linked to unkind comments directed at the doctor, according to the authors of the report.

In the study, surgeons participated in training simulations during which experts made comments that were either neutral or mildly rude. While none of the comments related to the job performance of the surgeons, the doctors who were insulted had a lower score on performance and diagnostic evaluations.

Getting you back on your feet

While the research may be interesting, investigators aren't sure what to do about it. You may also be confused and concerned that an off-hand remark by a sedated or pain-racked patient or an emotional family member can so drastically affect a doctor's performance. Nevertheless, researchers hope to use the information to improve patient care.

The doctors who conducted the study believe that two changes might result in improvement of patient care. First, death certificates should note medical errors that contribute to patient deaths. Next, hospitals should continue to improve protocol to prevent common errors.

You have options as well. If you're suffering from a mistake your doctor made during your care, you have every right to consult an attorney. While you may wish to deal with the hospital to resolve the issue yourself, a lawyer representing your interests may convince the medical facility that you are serious about seeking compensation for your suffering. Your attorney will deal with the negligent party while you focus on getting well.

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D'Amico Law Offices, L.L.C.
310 Grant Street
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Suite 825
Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Phone: 412-906-8180
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