Nearly 100,000 patients die in America's hospitals each year as a result of medical errors, and many more are harmed. While there is no way to absolutely guarantee that you won't suffer as a result of a medical error when you fall ill and seek medical assistance, there are a number of things you and your family can do to help lower the risk.

Things you can do to help prevent medical errors:

  1. Make sure that all doctors know about all of your medications. It's a good idea to keep an updated list of all of your medications, including over-the-counter drugs and supplements. Don't assume that all of your medications will be listed in your patient record, especially if you see multiple doctors.
  2. In hospitals: Ask if medical team members have washed their hands. Infections and viruses are a threat in any acute care facility. Don't worry about sounding rude by asking about hand washing. That one question could save your life.
  3. For surgery: Choose a hospital with experience in similar procedures. When choosing a hospital to have your surgery, make sure to ask how many of these procedures the hospital handles each year. It's not just the doctor who needs to be experienced, but the entire medical team, from the nursing staff to the anesthesiologist.
  4. Be an active participant in your health care. The doctor may have the training, but no one knows your body better than you. Learn as much as you can about your condition or disease and don't hesitate to speak up if something doesn't feel right. Keep talking until someone pays attention to you.
  5. Inform your doctor and family of any allergies. As with your medications, don't assume that all of your allergies will be listed in your patient record. It's also a good idea for your family or close friend to be advised of these allergies in the event you are ever incapacitated.

If, despite your best efforts, you or someone you care about is harmed or killed by a missed diagnosis or medical error, you need to enlist the aid of a skilled medical malpractice attorney like Such an attorney can help you get the compensation you and your family need to help pay medical bills and household expenses while the injured person is recovering. Most such attorneys offer a free consultation to evaluate your case. Some will also offer to work on a contingency basis. That means that you won't be billed for their services until/unless they collect a settlement for you.