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Patients suffer from medical treatment errors
For thousands of sick people in Germany, their ailments are often accompanied by problems caused by botched medicine. A few examples show that a stronger safety culture would be appropriate in hospitals and medical practices.
3932 confirmed treatment errors
Experts from the medical service of the health insurance companies (MDK) confirmed 3932 treatment errors nationwide for the past year. Some estimates even assume that around 40,000 patients in Germany each year complain about mistakes made by doctors at the insurance companies, courts, insurance companies or medical centers. The case of a 71-year-old cardiac patient is particularly drastic. His chest was still open and an operating room nurse found after her count that a compress was missing. The operating doctor palpated the connective tissue that surrounds the heart, but did not find the swab. He suspected that it was a counting error and sewed the patient back on. This turned out to be a big mistake, because the swab was still on the heart. The doctor could have found him by X-ray machine. The medical error led to a high fever in the patient in the intensive care unit and after further examination the compress was discovered. This was removed by emergency surgery, but the 71-year-old initially had severe blood poisoning. The medical officers responsible did not even want to properly document what was happening. The victim of botch-up would therefore have had to forego adequate compensation if the MDK examiners had not become active. Through their detective work, they had uncovered a note from an anesthetist on the "Therapy plan of the intensive care unit1", which provided evidence that the doctors had evidence of their misconduct.
More than 23,000 complaints per year In Germany, more than 23,000 patients complained last year about suspected incorrect operations and therapies in practices and clinics. These are the number of complaints with health insurance companies and the responsible medical centers. No figures are known about cases that ended up directly with liability insurance or in court. About a third of the suspected cases were confirmed after examinations. Stefan Gronemeyer, Vice General Manager of the Medical Service of the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Funds, said: "In many cases, it is too easy to blame it on an individual's inability, ignorance or negligence." Clear planning and the disclosure of information are often not sufficient. Like a 70-year-old patient after hip surgery. The man dislocated his hip twice when getting up in rehab. When it happened for the third time at night, he was relocated as an emergency and the hip joint had to be readjusted in a second operation. The clinic doctors had not given the information that the socket of the joint was not sitting optimally to the rehab clinic.
Faulty medical documentation is not uncommon. Not only in clinics, but also in doctor's surgeries. For example, MDK experts were concerned with the case of a 54-year-old woman who was not immediately diagnosed with a heart attack. The patient went to the family doctor with a feeling of pressure in the abdomen, who tried to make a diagnosis using an ECG and blood sample. The woman came to the hospital two days later with acute abdominal pain and was found to have had a heart attack two days earlier. The MDK expert Astrid Zobel explained: "The posterior wall infarction should have been detected on the EKG." But what options does a hospital patient have if he suspects a treatment error? MDK medical lawyer Ingeborg Singer advises: “He should keep a kind of diary” and visitors, relatives or bed neighbors could serve as witnesses. In any case, the medical documentation should be requested. These should be checked for completeness, because according to the MDK inspector, incorrect documentation is not uncommon. The Federal Ministry of Health points out on its website that the new patient rights law "strengthens the positions of patients vis-à-vis service providers and health insurers". It goes on to say: “If there is a treatment error, the health and long-term care insurance companies will have to support their insured in the enforcement of claims for compensation.” (Sb)