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Nearly 20 Percent of Elderly Patients Suffer Medical Injuries

At the very least, medical care is meant to protect patients from unnecessary injury or illness. We generally expect medical treatment to improve our health rather than harm it. However, in many cases, medical mistakes cause injuries and other medical problems that are not related to the patient's underlying condition.

A study recently published in the journal Injury Prevention analyzed data for about 12,500 Medicare patients whose average age was 76. These patients filed Medicare claims between 1998 and 2005. According to the research, nearly 20 percent of the patients suffered medical injuries not linked to the patients' underlying medical problems. The injuries resulted from issues such as allergic reaction to prescription drugs and administration of the wrong medication.

In April we discussed the issue of misdiagnosis in outpatient settings, and the recent study also points to significant problems with outpatient care. Nearly two-thirds of the documented injuries occurred not in hospitals but in settings such as doctors' offices, nursing homes, emergency rooms, clinics and outpatient surgery centers.

The lead researcher in the study is Mary Carter, who directs Towson University's Gerontology Program. According to her, medical injuries were linked to a death rate two times as high as the death rate for elderly patients who had not suffered a medical injury.

Misdiagnoses, medication errors, surgical errors and delayed diagnoses are all preventable mistakes that too often result in serious injury or illness. In addition to pain and suffering, patients or their families are often confronted with high medical bills and long-term care costs. To learn more about your legal options after a medical injury, please visit our medical malpractice website.

Source: HealthDay, "1 in 5 Elderly U.S. Patients Injured by Medical Care," Steven Reinberg, May 28, 2014

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