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Medical errors often go unreported by patients

We all know that to err is human, and that everyone makes mistakes. Even a professional you trust with your life, such as your doctor, is capable of the occasional wrong decision. But too often, medical errors are kept under wraps without being reported to a state agency, licensing board or other group that tracks such mistakes. And when medical malpractice goes unreported, everyone suffers.

Many people who have suffered complications due to a physician or hospital employee's error don't end up saying anything about it for a variety of reasons. They may be too emotionally traumatized, embarrassed or focused on the immediate resulting medical problem. They might be disabled and unable to report the problem. Sometimes, they might not even be aware that they've been harmed by an error. In other cases, patients don't want to bring any professional harm to their doctors or jeopardize the usually good care they receive.

One of the problems with failure to report medical mistakes is that clinics and hospitals can't be held accountable. Agencies and licensing boards want to hear from patients who have suffered from errors -- not necessarily to punish them or their employees, but to track error rates, investigate the error and help prevent it from happening again to you or another patient. But many people also don't know how or where to report medical mistakes because there's no single national system or agency where patients can report problems with their care.

Serious medical errors that lead to significant injury or death may warrant a medical malpractice lawsuit. In these cases, speaking with a personal injury attorney is one way to report the problem. Your attorney may also be able to help you file a complaint with the most appropriate state agency or licensing board. But he or she can also ensure that you're financially compensated for the pain, suffering and extra costs you endure from a medical error. No matter how much you like your doctor, your own health and well-being should come first.

Source: NBC News, "Why patients don't report medical errors," Marshall Allen, Sept. 26, 2012

· Our firm handles medical malpractice cases and many other personal injury issues. To learn more about our practice, please visit our New York and New Jersey medical malpractice page.

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