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"Overtreatment" of patients leads to medical error

Improved opportunities in health care may include advanced treatments and procedures, however, when medical professionals "overtreat" their patients, it can result in more errors. The number of patients, complications in treatment, and financial pressures on hospitals has increased the potential for more mistakes. Mistakes can be caused by bad judgment, inexperience, negligence or even recklessness. In any case, when a medical error is made, patients will suffer.

A 1999 study found that there are as many as 98,000 deaths occurring every year because of medical mistakes. Exact statistics on medical mistakes in Colorado and nationwide are difficult to assess: states have inconsistent reporting guidelines. Health care experts estimate that medical mistakes kill around 200,000 Americans every year. With such high rates of fatality, medical malpractice and mistakes are a leading cause of death in the United States.

The high incidence of medical error may be linked to the high number of tests, procedures and treatments in this country; far more than in other industrialized nations. Though some treatments arise out of legitimate patient needs, many are performed unnecessarily. Doctors argue that this "defensive medicine" is to insulate doctors and hospitals from lawsuits; however it has been proven that "overtreating" patients can create more potential for human and medical error, including:

  • False positives
  • Infections
  • Overmedication
  • Unnecessary operations
  • Unnecessary procedures

Patients should understand that excessive intervention can result in more mistakes result in medical malpractice. If you suspect that an injury or death was caused by unnecessary treatment or care, you may be entitled to compensation. If you are currently under medical care, consider whether the treatment you are receiving is actually necessary.

Source: The New York Times, "More Treatment, More Mistakes," Sanjay Gupta, July 31. 2012.

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