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Mothers’ group offers patient safety advice

A mother who lost her son to medical malpractice over a decade ago spoke recently at a patient safety awareness event; she told the audience her story and offered advice on how to advocate for themselves and their loved ones in stressful hospital situations. She says that she learned a lot from her experience that she wishes she had known then, and has started the group Mothers Against Medical Errors to help educate more people.

Medical malpractice can have serious results, and patients or families of the victim are often left looking for answers. Some victims choose to pursue legal action to investigate mistakes that a hospital or doctor may have made.

The woman’s son was admitted to the hospital for elective surgery to treat a congenital heart condition. He was given medication that caused an ulcer and internal bleeding, but the hospital staff didn’t recognize the symptoms in time. She says that because her son was so young and healthy, the staff may have ignored signs of distress.

Some mistakes are unavoidable, while others may be the result of an overworked hospital staff or disorganized record keeping. Mothers Against Medical Errors recommends keeping a journal of your own treatment and asking to see your medical records each day. The increased attention on past treatment may help doctors notice facts that they had overlooked before.

The group also suggests that patients bring an advocate with them when they visit doctors or hospitals for recurring treatment. The friend or relative may hear and remember details that the patient misses. It can also be helpful to keep track of all the treating physicians and to note their position within the hospital hierarchy, so that it’s easier to pursue a solution with the best possible person.

Source: CT Mirror, “A patient survival guide, from a mother who learned too late,” Arielle Levin Becker, March 8, 2012.

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