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Preventing mistakes is most of the battle. If you get mistake-free diagnosis and mistake-free treatment, then you'll almost certainly get the best possible health care, and only succumb if the disease is beyond the current range of medical science.
The causes of medical mistakes are many and varied. Unfortunately, everyone is human, and mistakes are part of humanity. Medical mistakes can arise from the health practictioner, specialist, hospital administration, nursing staff, pharmacists, pathology laboratories, pharmaceutical companies, and many other places. The patient can also make various mistakes. All of these factors mean that rates of medical mistakes are sadly common.
There are a variety of types of medical mistakes. Some of the most common types include misdiagnosis, medication errors, surgery errors, nosocomial infections (infections caught in a hospital), laboratory test errors, and administrative errors.
Much of the burden of preventing medical mistakes falls on the medical community. This is not taken lightly, nor is it dismissed. There are numerous conferences, technologies, and proposals that aim to reduce the rate of errors in all aspects of medical care. Unfortunately, it is a difficult problem, and error rates are only slowly decreasing.
The patient may well be the one who can do the most to prevent many types of medical mistakes. As a patient, you have the time (and motivation) to double-check your diagnosis and medications, whereas the hurried medical staff do not have hours to spend on your case. Education can allow you to double-check your diagnosis, examine all possible treatments, check your medications for possible adverse events, and so on. Although you can't always prevent the slip of the scalpel in surgery or fully avoid a hospital-caused infection, you can at least be informed about the risks, and research the past record of your doctor and your hospital.
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