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The problem of medication errors has by now been well-reviewed, and efforts to minimize such errors are underway in hospitals and doctors’ offices across the country. Nevertheless, the problem of medication errors has proven to be a very stubborn one. In his groundbreaking book, “To Err is Human,” Lucien Leape, M.D., estimated that medication errors caused approximately 98,000 deaths per year. Given that the 40,000 +/- highway deaths each year, is often described as “carnage” on the roads, 98,000 is a sobering number.

A study reported earlier this year reviewed medication errors made on patients undergoing surgery. Astoundingly, the study estimated that 5% of adults and 12% of children suffered harm in surgery-related medication errors. Painkilling medications and antibiotics were responsible for a significant share of serious harm. As is the case in other areas of medical negligence, failures of communication caused many of the problems. The danger was particularly acute when various medical teams not working on the patient at the same time, were required to communicate effectively. Examples given were hand offs of patients from the preoperative team to the operating room team, and from the operating room to nurses in the recovery room or on the ward. These failures of medical communication will continue until the notion of patient treatment as a true team effort, is taken seriously and implemented across disciplines and hospital staffs and departments.

For more information on this subject matter, please refer to our section on Medical Malpractice and Negligent Care.

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