Did you know that the 3rd leading cause of death isn’t recorded on death certificates or in medical data? This outrageous fact further victimizes the hundreds of thousands of patients who die — and the countless more who are seriously injured — each year from medical error and negligence. Why is this happening? Why is this cause of death and injury hidden from official records?
Most people are not aware that they are more likely to die from medical error than they are from respiratory disease, an accident, a stroke, or Alzheimer’s. Why don’t patients know this crucial information concerning their health and wellbeing? How can birth injuries such as cerebral palsy be effectively diagnosed and treated if medical errors are hidden as cause?
Fear and Corruption: Why Doctors and Hospitals Hide Medical Errors
It wasn’t until recently that the severity of this widespread problem was unearthed. When researchers began examining the frequency of medical error, shocking statistics quickly began to emerge. For instance, did you know that mistakes are made during nearly half of all surgical operations?
There are a lot of reasons why doctors choose to hide the fact that medical error has occurred. If a doctor reports an error, they could be fined or charged with medical malpractice — and they could also face scrutiny that harms their career. Doug Wojcieszak, founder of Sorry Works!, an online platform encouraging medical disclosure, believes that this problem has persisted because doctors “haven't been taught what to do when they make a mistake; they're scared. They're relying on rumors and advice from colleagues who don't know better than they do.”
This problem of under-reporting runs so deep that doctors are also unwilling to report medical error that they see happening around them. Unfortunately, a culture of silence, secrecy, and fear has allowed this problem to persist, and has prevented doctors from effectively learning how to avoid these mistakes in the first place.
In addition to this, there is a pronounced culture in the medical community of corruption. For instance, state medical boards have a long, and shameful, history of protecting doctors and hiding medical negligence, and hospitals have been known to cover up instances of medical negligence — including falsifying records — in order to avoid scrutiny.
Does Secrecy Prevent Early Diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy?
Out of every 1,000 births, 7 babies will suffer a birth injury such as cerebral palsy — and, in many instances, this could have been prevented. It is important to recognize that there are many different causes behind birth injuries. During birth, factors such as the position of the baby, the decision to use forceps, prolonged labor, improper prenatal care, and forceful delivery can all lead to the devastating injury of cerebral palsy.
It stands to reason that, if doctors routinely reported medical error and birth injuries, that many instances of cerebral palsy could be diagnosed and treated earlier. Oftentimes, the signs and symptoms of this birth injury are not noticed until months, or even years, after the fact. New technology and treatment options, such as the robotic crawler, can help infants recover movement at an earlier age. The sooner the treatment, the better. In the end, keeping medical errors hidden ends up causing additional damage and harm.
Will This Problem Ever Go Away?
Despite the fact that the medical error epidemic continues to spread, there is some hope that new technology and protocol can address the systemic issues behind under-reporting and secrecy. In order for there to be real, meaningful change, however, a lot needs to be addressed. Recent reports reveal that quality of care has been decreasing, and that hospitals still prioritize financial gain.
Medical malpractice lawsuits have been proven to improve doctor training and safety. Until the medical industry makes bold moves to combat a culture of secrecy, and until healthcare isn’t primarily about monetary gain, it is crucial that victims speak up for themselves, learn to recognize signs of medical error, and demand justice. This epidemic should not — and cannot — be hidden any longer.