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Medical errors pose significant patient safety risks

Medical tests can determine whether a patient has a condition requiring immediate medical attention. A single medical error can significantly put a patient's health at risk. However, according to a recent study from John Hopkins University School of Medicine, such errors are becoming the biggest concern for patient safety not just in Maryland, but across the country as well.

In a nearby state, the experience of a mother and her young daughter demonstrates the damaging effect of medical errors. The then four-year-old daughter was frequently experiencing very high fevers. Several blood tests had negative results so the girl's doctor suspected Familial Mediterranean Fever and requested another test. Mother and daughter traveled to a Maryland genetic testing center to undergo the test which was positive. The most devastating part of the news was that there was no cure for the condition.

The mother was told that the disease came with severe complications and her daughter was not expected to live long. Side effects of medication also caused her daughter pain. However, the real pain came when the mother was told that a mix-up in testing procedures caused her daughter's DNA to be combined with that of a 41-year-old man. Eventually, the fevers subsided when her daughter's tonsils were removed. It was all she needed to get well.

The case of the mother and her daughter is not isolated. Across the country people suffer because of diagnostic errors. Some are not as lucky as the four-year-old girl who survived the ordeal. Medical mistakes, especially in high-risk situations, such as a cancer diagnosis, can cause a lot of pain and suffering for a patient. Maryland victims of medical negligence can hold a medical practitioner or hospital legally accountable through a medical malpractice lawsuit. Compensation can also be sought to help with medical expenses and other damages.

Source: Poughkeepsiejournal.com, "Medical test mistakes pose serious risk," Lisa Iannucci, May 25, 2014

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