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A nonprofit organization (Safe Medication Practices) dedicated to improving medication-safety procedures claims that less than half of hospitals always labeled medication containers such as syringes and nearly 20% said they never used labeling. As bad as these figures are, the organization claims that the situation is an improvement on what it was in 2000. Patients' lives are placed at risk when hospitals don't use labels as the risk of medication mix-ups is greater. For example, a woman died this year after she was injected with an antiseptic skin cleaner instead of a contrast dye during a brain aneurysm procedure. The cup holding the skin cleaner was unlabeled and similar to that used for contrast dyes. In another incident, a 7 year old boy died in 1995 after he was injected with the wrong medication during a common ear operation. In 1985 another man undergoing eye surgery died when he was accidentally injected with a toxic formaldehyde-like substance which was in an unlabelled container. The ensuing medical malpractice case led to a $2 million settlement. In yet another case, a man had his genital severely burned after the doctor accidentally used a strong detergent on a genital wart instead of bleach. Again, the solution was in an unlabelled bottle. In other incidences involving lack of labeling, a patient was injected with hydrogen peroxide instead of anesthetic and another patient was injected with anesthetic instead of contrast dye. In 2002, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality estimated that about 7,000 people die annually from medication errors. They believe that hospitals need to be more open about reporting errors if they have any hope of preventing further occurrences.
Source: summary of medical news story as reported by The Seattle Times
About: Improvement in hospital labeling could prevent many medical errors
Date: 3 December 2004
Source: The Seattle Times
Author: Carol M. Ostrom
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