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The dangers of a hospital stay

Pennsylvania residents may have heard that medical errors and prescription drug interactions are among the nation's leading killers, but they might not know just how hazardous a stay in an American hospital can be. Studies indicate that more than 400,000 American hospital patients die each year as a result of a hospital error, and about 75,000 patients die as a result of infections that they develop during their hospital stays.

Many of these fatal infections are caused by antibiotic resistant superbugs that are sometimes impossible to treat effectively. According to the CDC, about half of the antibiotics prescribed to hospital patients in the United States are unnecessary, and these unneeded drugs kill beneficial stomach bacteria and create an environment where deadly infections like Clostridium difficile can thrive. C. diff infections claim the lives of about 14,000 American hospital patients each year.

Medication errors are another leading cause of death in hospital settings. Researchers from Harvard University estimate that about 1,000 preventable medication mistakes occur each day in American hospitals. Many of these errors are blamed on overworked doctors and nurses or poor communication, and sophisticated medication monitoring and dispensing systems do not seem to be having near the impact that safety advocates had hoped for.

While some medical mistakes may be unavoidable, others could be prevented by improved hiring and training practices. When efforts to reduce costs lead to the safety of patients being compromised, facilities may face hospital negligence lawsuits filed on behalf of those who have been harmed. This type of litigation can be difficult for juries to understand, and attorneys for plaintiffs may call upon on experts such as hospital administrators to establish that negligence played a role.

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