Medical Errors: What We Can Learn from a Virologist


* By Mindy File



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The United States is recognized as having one of the best medical systems in the world, if not the best. Yet, medical errors are acknowledged as a major cause of death and disability.

A few years ago, my mother was in the hospital due to respiratory difficulties. The doctors could not find the source of the problem, but her WBC (white blood count) indicated that there was an infection.


They had checked her blood and urine, but not the sputum from her throat and lungs. Her problem was breathing, but they did not think to check that area! I had to argue and push for that to be done. When I later asked what the result of the sputum culture was, I was told that it was just normal flora. My mother was given a tracheostomy (surgery) and put on a ventilator. She was then sent to a rehabilitation facility. Upon reviewing information with the doctor in the rehabilitation hospital, I discovered that the sputum report actually showed a strong bacterial infection. I had been lied to and my mother mistreated!


Once my mother received the proper antibiotic, she improved rapidly and was off the ventilator in three weeks. I was a medical scientist who had worked in hospitals and clinics, and therefore more knowledgeable than the average person, yet this happened because it did not occur to me that I would be given incorrect test results. Imagine how much worse things would have happened, had I not insisted on culturing the sputum. What did I learn from this and what should everyone know? Remember that doctors, nurses, and administrators are human beings, and humans make mistakes. Check everything and assume nothing!


Those of you who are not medically knowledgeable must have someone to consult who will know what to ask; someone to do the research you are not able to do. Never accept suffering and death that can result from medical mistakes.

Is there a way to guarantee you and those you love will never suffer from a medical error? No such guarantee is possible that I know. However, there are things that everyone can do to lessen the possibility.


The first thing is to do whatever you can to improve your health and keep out of the medical system as much as possible. Number two is getting someone to consult. After all, even doctors consult other doctors.

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* Mindy File has a B.A. in biology & psychology . She worked for about 20 years in a couple of hospitals and a large clinic, including a short period in virology. Ms. File had to stop working to assist parents full time when they started having major health problems.


Tradução: Mindy File é bacharel em Biologia e Psicologia. Ela trabalhou por cerca de 20 anos em alguns hospitais e uma ampla clínica, incluindo um curto período em virologia. Teve que parar de trabalhar para ajudar os pais em tempo integral quando eles começaram a ter sérios problemas de saúde.

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