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Medical malpractice a huge problem across the U.S.

Every year, far too many Americans, including many in West Virginia, die due to medical mistakes. According to a report that U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer's office recently released, medical error causes 325,000 deaths per year in the country's hospitals. That frightening statistic means that only heart disease and cancer cause more deaths each year than medical errors.

The report detailed a wide range of preventable medical mistakes that cost patients their lives. In addition, the direct cost of these errors is roughly $19.5 billion per year, according to the report. Under the Affordable Care Act, Medicare penalizes hospitals if too many patients are re-admitted following certain procedures. The hope is that this will push doctors and other hospital staff to prevent costly errors that lead to medical complications.

When a patient dies due to medical malpractice, the victim's loved ones are usually left heartbroken and frustrated. It is encouraging that the government is focusing some attention on this deadly issue and pushing the medical community to take steps toward improving the problem. However, that does nothing to help the people who have already suffered due to medical negligence.

Under West Virginia law, victims and their families may have a legal cause of action if they suffered injuries due to a medical error. In cases where the patient dies, family members can file a wrongful death claim on behalf of their deceased loved one.

Doctors and other medical professionals have the lives of their patients in their hands on a daily basis. They have an obligation to do all that they can to help those patients. A part of that obligation is for the medical community to utilize proper systems and techniques to avoid careless and life-threatening mistakes.

Source: Los Angeles Daily News, "325,000 deaths in American hospitals due to medical errors, Sen. Barbara Boxer says," Susan Abram, April 25, 2014

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