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Mother educates families about patient safety after son's death

Patients and families in Fayetteville may understand that any type of surgery can be dangerous. However, patients and families also trust that when complications do arise during a surgery, doctors and other medical professionals will acknowledge that a mistake has been made and will do their best to fix any errors. Failing to notice that an organ was mistakenly punctured during an operation or failing to monitor a patient after surgery are forms of medical malpractice that can result in serious or fatal injuries.

After experiencing the traffic loss of her son after a surgical error was made, one mother started a group called Mothers Against Medical Error in an effort to better educate other American families about the real possibility and tragedy of such mistakes.

The woman's son was only 15 years old when he died. He had surgery done to repair a congenital heart condition, but the medication he was given during the operation caused him to have a perforated ulcer, which was accompanied by internal bleeding. Medical staff did not notice the complication, and as a result, the teen's injuries went untreated.

The mother has since helped to pass new laws in South Carolina for patient safety and she educates others about how patients and their families can reduce their risk of becoming victims of medical malpractice.

When giving advice to others, the mother says patients should always do their research before surgery so that they understand the benefits and risks of an operation. Patients should also bring a trusted person with them to their surgery so that they always have an advocate by their side if something does go wrong or if the patient has questions for medical professionals. An advocate can help a patient read his or her medical records and discuss care with the medical providers.

Additionally, patients should read their own medical records because their records could contain wrong information. An allergy to a medication might not be properly listed. Or the medical record could actually belong to another patient.

In order to avoid an infection after surgery, patients should make sure that anyone who treats them properly washes their hands and sanitizes other medical equipment. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 100,000 patients died in 2002 as a result of a hospital-associated infection.

Keeping a journal of medications, a list of doctors who have treated the patient, phone numbers for friends and other pertinent information is also a good way to help avert disaster during a hospital stay.

Source: the ct mirror, "A patient survival guide, from a mother who learned too late," Arielle Levin Becker, March 8, 2012

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