By Joanne Chen
A part from interfering with your beach vacation, there’s another, more serious reason to steer clear of summer surgery if you can: a 10 percent spike in fatalities at teaching hospitals in July, confirmed by a new Journal of General Internal Medicine study. David Phillips, PhD, the study’s lead author and professor of sociology at the University of California, San Diego, speculates that the “July effect” may occur because that’s the month when new doctors-in-training begin their residencies.
The fatalities aren’t the fault of poor knife skills botching operations, though–rather, they’re due to mistakes made prescribing and administering patient medications, both surgery-related and not.
All told, as many as 98,000 deaths occur each year due to all kinds of medical mistakes–the equivalent of a fully packed 747 crashing every other day. According to a congressionally mandated study on Medicare recipients, during 2008, 1 in 7 hospital patients experienced at least one unintended harm that prolonged his or her stay, caused permanent injury, required life-sustaining treatment, or resulted in death.
So what can you do to make sure this doesn’t happen to you or someone you love? Plenty, say doctors, nurses, and researchers. Here’s where to start.