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CNN's shocking medical mistakes

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This past weekend, CNN posted “10 Shocking Medical Mistakes” as part of its Empowered Patient series. According to Johns Hopkins Hospital internist Dr. Albert Wu, “Mistakes are happening every day in every hospital in the country that we're just not catching.” CNN video states that seven patients have the wrong body part operated on each day in the U.S. These mistakes lead to nearly a quarter million of patients dying every year and millions of others injured as a result of medical malpractice.

The first mistake CNN lists is nurses and doctors who treat the wrong patient as a result of a name mix-up. Mistaking one patient for another can also cause prescription and medication errors, which is why staff should verify a patient’s name and date of birth when he or she is admitted and checked again before anything is done to or given to the patient.

One of the more common mistakes on CNN’s list is patients being forced to play “The ER waiting game,” which can be very painful. The main reason behind this mistake is the limited number of available beds and a constantly busy staff. Most beds become free when a patient is transferred to a doctor’s department, which only occurs after the doctor’s approval. CNN recommends calling your primary physician on your way to the hospital, so he or she can talk to ER doctors and get you in quicker.

Other mistakes include surgical errors like anesthesiologists not providing enough anesthesia; doctors and nurses neglecting to wash their hands and infecting patients; and doctors leaving tools inside a patient’s body. Scary stuff. But headlines suggest that the living aren’t the only people at risk. Yesterday, ABC News reported a freezer failure at Harvard’s Brain Tissue Resource Center. Losing a third of the brains donated for autism research has set studies back by 10 years, despite the fact that researchers were able to save some of the samples. Today, the families of those whose brains were donated are wondering why two alarms never sounded and why there was no other mechanism in place that could have prevented this from happening.