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Patients can help reduce the likelihood of medical errors

Some New Jersey residents may have heard about a study done by doctors at John Hopkins University that looked at hospital records and found that up to 200,000 deaths per year happened because of medical errors. If their estimates are correct, it is the third-leading cause of death in the country. However, even if their figures are not entirely accurate, medical errors happen more often than they should. Usually, they occur because of a breakdown of communication during patient transfers or shift changes or due to other system failures such as medication errors.

However, there are things patients can do to safeguard their health. Taking ownership of a condition can result in working with the doctor to create a plan for treatment. They can read about and monitor their condition.

Asking questions of both the physician and hospital staff is also important. Patients should find out why they are being given certain tests and whether there are alternatives. They should be unafraid to get second opinions or to question what medication is being administered and what its side effects might be.

Despite these precautions, acts of medical malpractice can take place. For example, even when people are diligent about tracking their health care, they may be incapacitated and unable to monitor a situation. There could be a surgical error such as wrong-site surgery or leaving an instrument behind in a person's body. Other mistakes are not so obvious, however, and an attorney representing a patient who has been harmed will need to demonstrate that the practitioner or facility failed to exhibit the requisite standard of care.

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