Patients dying as a result of DOCTOR'S mistakes

  1. According to Dr Mercola's web page (,
    "doctors are the third leading cause of death in the US"!!! (See "Medical Mistakes Kill 100,000 Americans a Year" ).
    This is a very serious allegation. Do you think this is true?
    Has anyone out there PERSONALLY seen a patient DIE or suffer SEVERE DISABILITY as a direct result of a doctor's mistake??
  2. Visit VickyRN profile page

    About VickyRN

    Joined: Mar '01; Posts: 12,040; Likes: 6,492
    Nurse Educator; from US
    Specialty: 16 year(s) of experience in Gerontological, cardiac, med-surg, peds


  3. by   fergus51
    My dad almost died after being prescribed the wrong drug. Unfortunately I know of at least one patient who did die after being given a prescription for the same thing. The doc and pharmacist both ignored the fact that he was allegric to asprin and the other drug (Toradol I think) was contraindicated in such cases.
  4. by   P_RN
    Has anyone out there PERSONALLY seen a patient DIE or suffer SEVERE DISABILITY as a direct result of a doctor's mistake??
    Yes I have.
  5. by   raiderron
    I haven't prersonally seen this but have caught potential disasters by taking the time to review the written orders. I have caught some prescriptions that had ingredients that the patient was allergic to. I feel that we avoided some serious incidents. The Doctor's were appreciative of this with the exception of one.
  6. by   Jenny P
    Yes, I have. Many years ago, there was an idiot MD who decided that the elderly pt. was dehydrated and didn't wait until the CXR was done and wouldn't listen to the nurses to wait, so he started a liter of .9NS and gave it HIMSELF as a bolus over less than 1/2 hr. Then the CXR came back showing borderline pulmonary edema-- by this time, we were coding the poor pt. who was foaming pink froth with every breath. Needless to say, she didn't make it.
  7. by   pebbles
    We routinely have patients slip through the cracks and become septic/ develop infections because docs ignore or forget to remember that the nurse told them about worsening symptoms.... I have not seen someone actually DIE as a result of medical error or negligence, but I know it is only a matter of time. Private health care sounds better on the negligence front, but errors happen everywhere.
  8. by   mattsmom81
    There's an old saying..."Doctors bury their mistakes". Many cover well for each other, and many are experts at blaming the nurse for poor outcomes, IME.

    It's so easy for a doc to say "the NURSE didn't make the situation clear to me". Hospitals have instituted policies stating it is the nurse's responsibility to go right up the doc chain of command to chief of staff if we 'think' the doc is mismanaging. We aren't docs but we're asked to police them. Nurses in Texas have lost their licenses for failing to prevent harm due to doctor negligence and malpractice. By establishing a 'chain of command 'policy, the hospital is also turfing responsibility to the nurse and trying to deflect legal ramifications. Woe is the nurse who hasn't reported a mismanaged case right up to the chief of staff "The NURSE did not follow policy..." will be their story should there be a poor patient outcome. <sigh> I've seen it happen. And I've felt the sting of docs badmouthing me cuz I went over their heads. Sadly, I've had patients die on my unit in spite of my best efforts to get a doc to intervene. Bet lots of us have.

    Anyone else get scared to death at these Nurse Legal Seminars? I know I do! Especially when I think of all the silly policies in the book that nobody follows or even know exist...but that's another topic.
  9. by   canoehead
    Good point Mattsmom- nurses cover for every dept, including medicine. WE are apparently not qualified to make decisions about treatments, but if the doc makes the wrong decision we are usually the ones to hang for it after the fact. Especially at night if the doc says that we didn't give the full facts, or even worse, if they deny their own orders.
  10. by   Marj Griggs
    Yes--a 40 or 50 yo post hysterectomy pt who was receiving IVs as fast as they would run. Congestive heart failure. I was an aid at the time, and had NO clout--although I could see what was happening. This was, incidently, in the 1950s in a rural hospital.
  11. by   mattsmom81
    Oh, thanks Canoehead, you saw what I failed to mention and that is the fact I've been a NIGHT nurse for most of my 25 year career--I like nights better because there's more time for patient care, but the drawback is docs play their pissy little games with us...

    Marj, we never forget when we see something like this, do we? It breaks our hearts.
  12. by   Brownms46
    I saw one almost fact the doctor had called the family to the hospital to pay their last respects.

    I don't remember the med he had ordered to be this was about 14yrs ago. But what do remember is...from what I read in the literature ...this med was counterindicated for that pt. He was hoping to utilize one of the SE of the meds to counteract a problem the woman was having. Anyway...I refused to give it...even after being the charge...that I should give it...BECAUSE...THE DOCTORS ORDERED IT...yeaaaaaa! I called him...woke him up ....sleeping in the ER...and he told me off. I told him....if" I gave it...I would chart that I had called him...and tried to get clarification as to why he was giving it seems this med was counterindicated in her case. He said fine...slammed the phone down! I sat there....trying to figure out what to do next. Give...No. all of a sudden he walks in barefoot...and says you had look at the labs. I asked him "What labs" labs were drawn today" He took the chart...looked over it...and after much hemming and hawing...said "Hold the MED"!

    Low and behold...the next day I come into work...and guess what the lady has made a miracleous recovery!!! She is no longer in the ICU...but in her in a regular room! Now I don't know how many doses of this med had been given...I just glad I didn't give her the LAST one! The lady who the family was staying over nite in the hospital that HE said probably wouldn't make it threw the nite...lived to go home a couple of days later!

    P. S. I saw him in the hall the day she was out of ICU...and he said...did you see that pt...."I" cured her!!! YEAH right!
    Last edit by Brownms46 on Mar 11, '02
  13. by   VickyRN
    A long time ago in a hospital far, far away I witnessed a serious doctor error which is indelibly ingrained in my memory. I had one full year of experience under my belt, when TPTB made me one of the night shift "charge nurses." Being night charge in that small community hospital was actually akin to being night supervisor--you had to be resource person for the ER, ICU, swingbed unit, OB. Night charge was responsible for bed assignments as patients presented to the ED, infection control matters, transferring emergent patients in need of more specialized care to the regional hospital an hour away, dealing with employee conflicts and disgruntled family members and a host of other things that so unpredictably popped up, as well as the welfare of ALL 50 or so patients in the hospital--an ENORMOUS responsibility for one so young and inexperienced.
    So, one particular night I was charge. One of the nurses became sick, so (in addition to being charge) I had to take over her line of patients 8 hours into the 12 hour shift. One of her patients immediately caught my attention. A frail little woman seventyish--I had actually admitted her two or three days ago. When I had admitted this woman, she had been alert, fully oriented, conversant, appropriate. She had been admitted for a GI "work-up." Now this dear little lady had very inappropriate behavior, inappropriate words, staring out into space, unable to get her to connect with reality. She had been admitted by a family practice doc in the town who had two associates. All three docs were overworked and harried and were in and out of the hospital on pt visits like greased lightening. So she had probably been seen by all three docs with very poor communication between them. Turns out she had been on a Colyte regimen for two or three days!!! Had her NPO during that entire time and on a NS drip only. Called the doc on call, told her she had been acting very strangely and SUGGESTED that her electrolytes be checked!!! Well, it turned out her potassium was 1.8, magnesium and calcium also CRITICALLY LOW. Had her transferred into the ICU and also had the ER doc come up, check her out and write orders for her since the family practice doc on call was so slack and curlish, wouldn't come by himself. The lady never did recover. Stayed like she was, totally out of touch with reality. (Perhaps she had stroked-out due to the low electrolyes???) Family later transferred her to a nursing home, and she died a short time afterwards. She and her husband had just moved to the area for retirement, to be close to their daughter. What a tragic thing to happen!!! All over a stupid bowel prep. I hate Colyte to this day, as it is very dangerous, will cause electrolytes to leach out in vulnerable patients. Of course, the hospital and FP doc covered it all up and the family never did find out what actually happened. I never blew the whistle because I knew they would turn it all on me if I did (afterall, it is ALWAYS the nurse's fault).
    Last edit by VickyRN on Mar 14, '02
  14. by   mattsmom81
    Oh, what a heart wrenching story, Healing Touch!!

    And as we say "been there, done that, got the T shirt..."
    although it doesn't make us feel any better when this sort of thing occurs. To realize TPTB will indeed turn their malice to the nurse if we speak up is a sobering thought. We have all the accountability and zero authority....and we have to live with our own consciences too which may be the worst of it....... We second guess ourselves and rarely gain much peace of mind , do we?
    ( I chant the Serenity Prayer on a regular basis...LOL!)

    Thanks for sharing and God bless!