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In  USA, which has one of  the most sophisticated healthcare systems in the world, more than 98,000 people die each year due to errors in medical treatment. A much larger number of people spend additional time in hospitals due to the mistakes, which often hushed up. Despite having a system where detailed records of  medical treatments and prescription are maintained, medical errors are one of  the top ten reasons for death in USA. However, patients are able to file suits against hospitals and doctors due to the detailed records available.

Errors in medical treatment can take place at various stages of treatment. Sometimes the doctor will not diagnose the illness properly, and may prescribe medicines for some other ailment. This may be due to lack of  information or error in judgment. At times, the doctor's handwriting may be illegible, and the pharmacist may give the wrong medicine. When a patient is hospitalized, the diet prescribed and food given to the patient may be incorrect. During surgery, instead of  treating a defective organ, a healthy part of  the body may be operated on.


Though there have been attempts to reduce medical error, the progress has been very slow. This may be due to the complexity of  the healthcare system and the reluctance of doctors to admit errors. Few doctors will be ready to admit that a fellow doctor has made a mistake.  The insurance reimbursement system also pays more to the hospital if  patient has additional injuries due to a doctors mistakes.


How a patient can prevent medical errors.


In developing countries like India, few doctors maintain records of  the treatment of patients. Many doctors, especially in metro cities are interested in maximizing their income, without  bothering about the health of  the patient. I have known a so called  "good" dentist who did a silver filling by stuffing cotton inside and only an external silver coating. The patient had to suffer a lot of pain, but could not take any action to seek compensation. People who visit developing countries for cheap medical treatments, should be aware of  these deficiencies of  the healthcare system.


In India, most patients are ignorant about their illness and blindly believe that whatever the doctor says is correct. They often cannot afford a second opinion. Since no medical records are maintained for most patients, taking legal action against doctors for medical malpractices is difficult. Doctors are sometimes careless, since they know that they will not be penalized for their mistakes. Sometimes, the angry relatives of  the patient may attack the hospital staff, but this problem usually occurs only in government hospitals.


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