Though the common perception is that medical errors are few and far between, recent studies seem to indicate otherwise. One report found that nearly every American will receive an incorrect diagnosis at some point in their lives. Medical industry watchdogs say the factors that most often contribute to misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose are:
- Negligence or carelessness caused by fatigue or understaffing
- Miscommunication between doctors, nurses and patients
- An unwillingness by doctors to acknowledge or discuss errors that are made
Far too often, according to much research, doctors and nurses don’t include the patient in critical discussions, and make diagnostic assessments without gathering adequate information from the patient. They stress the need to talk directly to the patient and learn about symptoms, rather than simply relying on medical tests.
Critics also point to what they call a “culture of silence” among medical professionals—the idea that, when mistakes are made, they cannot be discussed. They say that just the opposite approach is necessary—that the best way to learn from mistakes is to fully discuss them, so that others don’t end up making the same errors.
The studies have not been limited to misdiagnoses, though. One report found that in one of every 10,000 surgeries, some tool or product is wrongfully left in a body cavity, and that surgeons perform the wrong surgery or operate on the wrong body part in one of every 100,000 cases. Critics say the reasons for such errors mirror those for misdiagnosis—poor communication, overworked doctors and a "hush-hush" atmosphere about mistakes.
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