When individuals in Illinois think of what constitutes a medical mistake, they may think of a negligent doctor or other medical staff member dispensing the wrong medication or making some other practical gaffe. Since this type of mistake can lead to injury, illness or death, it is taken very seriously. However, one mistake that is particularly egregious is if the patient is misidentified. In some cases, this logistical error is due to a similarity in the names of the patients. However, that is no excuse, and should not protect a negligent doctor from being held accountable.
An error in identifying a patient is worryingly commonplace. The growing use of electronic records is viewed as a reason why this will increase in the coming years. A not-for-profit institute that studies medical errors and health care improvement has placed identification mistakes in the top ten reasons why a patient can be placed in jeopardy. These mistakes can lead to a person getting the wrong medication and being wrongly identified when admitted to the hospital. There are certain steps that a hospital staff must take to make sure that the patient is identified correctly, and they often fail to take them.
Confusion can come up when there are many people with the same name and even the same birthdate. The decline in the use of Social Security numbers for fear of identity theft has also contributed to the incidence of misidentification. Without a system in the country in which everyone has an identification with the state, other methods and protections should be taken to avoid these mistakes from happening. Patients may consider identifying themselves and take a proactive role in their treatment, but this is not always possible. For those who are not able to take part in their treatment proactively, the damage can be long-lasting. What makes it worse is that it is generally avoidable.
Regardless of the reasons as to why a fatal mistake due to misidentification can occur, the responsibility is on the medical care provider to ensure that the patient is safe. A missed diagnosis is one thing and it can be damaging, but when there is a mistake and it leads to injury or death due to simply misidentifying the patient, it is inexcusable. Speaking to an attorney about a wrongful death medical malpractice lawsuit is a key to seeking compensation for this level of error.
Source: U.S. News and World Report, "Surviving a Patient Identification Error," Elizabeth Gardner, Aug. 22, 2016