New Report Shows Hospitals are More Deadly than Airplanes

July 29, 2011

Alarming new research reported in Reuters shows taking a trip to the hospital is deadlier than flying on an airplane. Millions of people die every year from preventable medical mistakes and hospital-acquired infections, making hospitals far riskier than airplanes. The World Health Organization recently found that a hospital patient has a 1 in 10 chance of suffering a medical error, and a 1 in 300 chance of dying from that error. Compare this to the chances of dying in an airplane crash, a significantly less common fatality that only one in 10 million passengers will ever experience.

Our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers at Pintas & Mullins know the serious risk patients face every time they walk into a hospital. We handle medical error cases on a regular basis, brought by hospital victims who suffered a serious injury or hospital associated infection while under the care of medical professionals. Most of these injuries are caused by neglect, with many hospital workers failing to take simple, hygienic steps such as washing their hands or cleaning surgical instruments with alcohol. Basic infection management strategies could save lives, but critical steps are ignored.

One study revealed hospital workers only wash their hands 25 percent of the time. Some companies offer electronic badge systems to ensure that doctors and nurses wash their hands before treating patients, but budget restraints are preventing many hospitals from taking advantage of this potentially life-saving technology. If health care professionals took just a few extra minutes to clean their hands with soap and water, more than 50 percent of all hospital-acquired infections could be prevented.

According to the report, the United States has a much higher rate of medical mistakes than European countries. Approximately 1.7 million hospital infections are acquired each year in this country, compared to 4.5 in Europe. One of the most common, life-threatening infections patients suffer is MRSA, a staph infection that can lead to many other types of infections. Flesh eating bacteria and strep are also infections that lead to serious patient harm and cost taxpayers up to $40 billion a year.

Other preventable problems, such as hospital falls or medication errors, also result in hospital-related deaths. Hospitals are liable under medical malpractice law when patients are injured by a hospital-acquired infection or preventable medical mistake.

Serious infections and injuries resulting from the negligence of a doctor, nurse, or other medical professional can result in compensation for the victim and the victim's family, including their medical expenses, loss of income, and pain and suffering, through the help of an experienced medical malpractice attorney.

Patients can take steps to minimize the risk, such as asking hospital workers if they washed their hands or used any type of alcohol-based cleaner before operations are performed. Smokers are also more likely to suffer a hospital infection, so cigarettes should be avoided in advance of any medical procedure. Ultimately, however, the duty lies in the hands of hospital employees to avoid acting negligently and deliver quality patient care. Failing to meet this duty will result in liability when hospital patients suffer serious permanent injuries or death.