It is true that medicines save lives, but the same might not apply to every 300th patient being admitted to a hospital. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one in 10 hospital admissions leads to an adverse event and one in 300 admissions in death.
Dr Nikhil Datar, a gynaecologist and health activist, was quoted as saying to a leading newspaper that “the brunt of this adverse event might range from a patient being asked to spend an extra day in the hospital or missing a dose of medicine. Unintended medical errors are a big threat to patient safety”.
No Indian data is available on this topic, and the WHO has listed it among the top 10 killers in the world. While a British National Health System survey in 2009 reported that 15% of its patients were misdiagnosed, an American study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2000 quantified this problem most effectively.
It said that there are 2,000 deaths every year from unnecessary surgery; 7,000 deaths from medication errors in hospitals; 20,000 from other errors in hospitals; 80,000 from infections in hospitals; and 106,000 deaths every year from non-error, adverse effects of medications. In all, 225,000 deaths occur per year in the US due to unintentional medical errors.
Further, pointing towards the medical error cases being registered in the West, Dr Datar mentioned “in the Western nations, it is believed that the incidence of unintentional medical errors is between 10% and 17% of all cases”.
The Indian government after realizing this concept, set up the National Initiative on Patient Safety in the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences a couple of years back.
Dr Akhil Sangal of the Indian Confederation for Healthcare Accreditation told a newspaper that “the idea is not to apportion blame. When medical negligence occurs, the first question to be asked is who is to blame. We instead have to evolve to a system in which we ask questions about how, when and where the negligence occurred”.