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Chronically ill kids at increased risk of medical errors

It can be devastating to be the parent of a child who suffers from a chronic health condition. There is the stress and anxiety of hospital visits and health problems, not to mention the difficulty of seeing a child in pain. As bad as this can be, one study suggests that these most vulnerable patients are the victims of medical malpractice more often than other children.

The results of the study suggest that because children with chronic illnesses may have more complicated health problems, they typically spend more time in the hospital. This can increase their odds of getting an infection, developing bedsores and having adverse reactions to certain types of medication. All of these are examples of medical errors, and they are generally preventable.

According to the report, 1.3 percent of children who have no chronic illness whatsoever are victims of medical malpractice and errors. In comparison, over 5 percent of chronically ill children are affected by these medical mistakes.

Researchers used codes found on patient discharge records to identify medical errors. The codes can be complex and can refer to a number of different events, so it is unclear just how many of the errors were actual mistakes made by hospital and staff, what the mistakes specifically were, and how serious the consequences of the errors ended up to be.

However, judging by the results of the study, it can be concluded that a chronically ill child is at an increased risk of medical errors. While some suggest that a rate of just over 5 percent is a relatively low, it is arguably still too high. Some organizations are looking into ways that doctors can prevent infections, which are the most common culprit in terms of medical complications.

Many types of medical errors are preventable, and doctors and hospitals have a responsibility to provide safe and effective care for their patients, whether they are chronically ill or not. When mistakes are made, it is important to hold the negligent parties responsible so that the error is hopefully not repeated.

Source: Reuters, "More hospital errors when kids have chronic ills," Amy Norton, Sept. 11, 2012

  • Our firm works with victims of medical malpractice and their families. Whether a patient is in the hospital once or hundreds of times, he or she should be able to expect that they will receive safe and effective care. For more information on this topic, please visit our Florida medical malpractice page.

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