Beware: Medical Malpractice Can Take Shocking Forms

Patients in Connecticut and around the world generally trust their doctors and medical professionals to provide them with competent medical care — they have to, and they have a right to. However, it is always important to remember that even good doctors can make medical mistakes.

Many mistakes go unnoticed unless they result in serious personal injuries or a wrongful death. Sometimes even then, it can be hard for patients and their loved ones to find out exactly what went wrong. Not all poor medical results are the result of malpractice, but patients have a right to know if a medical mistake played a part in a devastating outcome.

Sometimes, however, medical mistakes are simply shocking. Worse, many are easily preventable by following the generally accepted standards of medical care.

The following is a list of some surprisingly common yet outrageous medical mistakes — all easily preventable — that was recently compiled by CNN:

  • The doctor fails to verify the patient’s identity and ends up treating the wrong patient
  • Foreign objects such as surgical sponges are left inside a patient’s body because medical staff failed to follow basic procedures to account for equipment used during the operation.
  • Patients with dementia are not properly kept track of and end up wandering off. Sometimes they become lost or trapped and suffer from hypothermia or dehydration.
  • Inexperienced or even unlicensed doctors perform surgery or medical services without adequate training or knowledge.
  • Overcrowding at emergency rooms or failure to perform adequate triage costs precious time for patients needing treatment for serious illnesses or injuries.
  • The doctor fails to achieve an airtight seal when removing a chest tube, which can lead to air bubbles in blood and, ultimately, death.
  • The doctor operates on the wrong body part, the wrong side or the wrong patient.
  • Hospital staff does not comply with basic hygiene such as hand-washing, allowing hospital-acquired infections to spread.

As a patient or caregiver, you should always be on the alert for obvious medical mistakes. Don’t be afraid to ask questions — and don’t be afraid to say “stop” if you aren’t comfortable with something. While doctors, hospitals and medical professionals are required by law and ethics to provide you with a basic, decent standard of medical care, in the moment of treatment, you and your loved ones may be your own best advocates.

These and other types of medical mistakes can lead to life-altering injuries. Asking questions and demanding proper medical treatment are big steps toward protecting yourself from potentially dangerous medical mistakes.

Source:, “10 shocking medical mistakes, and what you should know to avoid them,” John Bonifield and Elizabeth Cohen, June 12, 2012

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