Considering all of the medical advances that occurred during the 20th century, a surprising and completely avoidable problem affects thousands of Americans every year. An estimated five percent of hospitals and clinics reuse syringes or single-use medication vials on multiple patients. The result: a dangerous potential for serious infectious diseases.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that 150,000 Americans received a dangerous injection from an improperly reused syringe - including 49 outbreaks of infectious diseases. But since this only accounts for reported cases, the actual number is likely to be dramatically higher. The consequences of these cases of medical malpractice can be severe, including infections like HIV, hepatitis C, and drug-resistant MRSA bacteria.
In one notable outbreak, an endoscopy clinic reused single-dose vials to treat multiple patients. State authorities notified 50,000 patients of the risk and ultimately identified as many as 115 cases of hepatitis C. Due to the difficulty of tracing diseases like heptatitis back to a single source, officials could not confirm whether all 115 cases came from the clinic.
This problem is an example of the reasons that underlie many medical malpractice cases. Although doctors and nurses know what they should be doing to protect patient safety, they often cut corners. Whether from a desire to save time and cut costs or just out of laziness, the consequences for patients are equally and unacceptably dangerous.
Source: USA Today, "Dirty medical needles put tens of thousands at risk in USA," Peter Eisler, Dec. 28, 2012
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