American Morning

Tune in at 6am Eastern for all the news you need to start your day.
November 4th, 2009
07:31 AM ET

Protect yourself from medical mistakes

By Danielle Dellorto

Hospitals and doctors make mistakes. It's something we don't like to think about, but it happens. Some scary examples I've come across: Minnesota doctors removed the healthy kidney of a cancer patient while leaving the diseased one behind; California doctors removed the appendix of the wrong patient; one of the most experienced surgeons in a Boston, Massachusetts, hospital operated on the wrong side of a patient. All of these mistakes happened within the past couple of years.

Rest assured, if you are the patient, you can help avoid such medical errors. Start by checking out your doctor and hospital. There are several websites that rank hospitals and physicians. Try or Tell the nurses and doctors who you are and why you're having surgery. You might feel a little silly, but giving your name, date of birth and for example, which hip you're having replaced – it bears repeating. Make sure your doctor – not someone else – initials your surgery site, then confirm that site with your physician right before your procedure. Finally, train someone to be your advocate. You're likely to be anxious and a little out of it, so be sure that friend or family member knows these important tips too.

For more tips on how to prevent medical errors, check out CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen’s Empowered Patient column.

Filed under: Health
soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. carlitos

    for the given examples it seems that doctors really know how to operate but the problem comes when they dont get the right information from the rest of the staff. or maybe doctors should be more involve with their patient's history and not just come in to operation room. hospitals do your job and hired well trained professionals and finally, people, let's follow the advises how to protect ourself before we loose an arm or more.

    November 4, 2009 at 8:22 am |
  2. David

    Let see, we have surgerys go amok. Removing the body parts, etc. SIGNIFICANT errors. Yet, the GOP keeps saying we need to trim malpractice and tort costs.

    I could accept that premise if there were NOT such agregious errors.

    Are there fivolous lawsuits, yes, without a doubt. However, where is the quality care in the medical industry.

    November 4, 2009 at 8:05 am |
  3. Tim Monk


    Great story about protecting ourselves from medical mistakes. I especially like the idea of marking the body parts in need of surgery. This brings up one question, however: If I'm expected to mark my body parts to prevent medical mistakes, can I now mark the parts of my medical bill that I'd like to pay?


    November 4, 2009 at 8:05 am |
  4. Brian

    I AGREE...

    We have to answer that question everytime we apply for work, credit, insurance, and everything else so what makes the census different?

    November 4, 2009 at 7:56 am |