close up of three doctors faces wearing surgical scrubs and masks

A decade ago the prestigious Institute of Medicine (IOM) shook the medical community to its foundation. The IOM estimated that almost 100,000 Americans die in hospitals every year as a consequence of errors.

What can people do to protect themselves and their loved ones from this epidemic of error? First, everyone needs an advocate. When you are in the hospital everything seems strange and scary. You need a family member or friend to be standing by to take notes, ask questions and verify that the correct procedures and medications are being administered. Our Free Drug Safety Questionnaire can help.

Have you experienced a medical error, either mistreatment or misdiagnosis? We want to hear about your experiences. Share your story below:

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  1. EJ

    That’s depressing. The same thing happened to me with my tramadol, which I was getting via the mail order “service” we were forced to use through our pharmacy benefit manager. I routinely used to be shorted up to 50 pills a refill(!). When I called to complain, the representative told me that nobody would believe me, since it was “one of those medications.” She was very nasty.
    My doctor suggested having the prescriptions mailed to the practice instead, and his staff would count them for me. Suddenly, the right number of pills started arriving. It was outrageous.
    I now pick up my medication locally and we have a different pharmacy benefit manager, but I’ve been suspecting I’m being shorted again. I need to start counting them once more. I’m so sick of it being assumed that because I have chronic pain, I’m a thieving addict, rather than the debilitated and disabled person I actually am. And, of course, when you complain to the pharmacy, then you are accused of behaving like an addict, and it could jeopardize your pain control. It’s truly criminal.

  2. linnietea

    You’d be surprised at how often prescriptions are shorted accusing patients of abusive behavior. My former physician overheard pharmacy tech in an elevator saying how easy it was to short large script because people never bothered to count their medicine.
    I had been shorted a weeks worth 36tabs, when I made a complaint after the 3rd month, pharmacy blamed my neighbor who picked up for me.My neighbor barely will take an aspirin, much less morphine.
    The pharmacy knew. That’s when the patient then had to have a contract for pain medication. They do wrong… we have to pay, and get treated as a criminal.

  3. Regina

    Try taking vitamim B-15.

  4. IMD

    The doctors didn’t know when to stop with antibiotics when I had a case of Pneumonia. After having a clear x-ray, I was still having difficulty breathing and was given yet another antibiotic ALONG with symbicort inhaler.
    To make a long story shorter, I have been to a series of Infectious diseases doctors and ENT, after developing a white tongue. Finally, the KOH test came back C. Parapsilosis.
    I am still searching for a doctor who is knowledgeable about it and accepts my insurance to treat it. I have been paying out of pocket to a holistic/integrative doctor who does not accept medical insurance, but does more diagnostic bloodwork than any doctor I’ve ever been in my life.
    I had been a healthy person my whole life, now I have a chronic fungal infection.

  5. Cpmt

    to SFE. I am sorry what happened to you and your mother… I too had bad experience with a few doctors – now I have a very good one, thank God!!-
    my question is, can you please explain to me what it means :B12 closed ring and B12 open ring? I need vitamin B12 (since I am diabetic and taking metformin). and where can I get the natural vitamin B12 open ring? Thanks a lot.

  6. SFE

    I filed against several of my doctors. Same thing – past the time limits and nothing I could do. We’re paying a couple hundred dollars a month just for the supplements I need and wouldn’t if the doctors had took their heads out of the sand. Insurance won’t cover it (I have good insurance) and can’t claim it on 1040 Sch A (big pharma??). I don’t trust mainstream medicine as far as I can research it. Yes, I’m a little bit bitter over what’s happened to my mother and me.

  7. SFE

    Reading all this just confirms what my mother and I went through the last 15 years. Mom died, I fought back from deaths’ door thanks to my background in biochem and nutrition. We had both fought the “battle of the bulge” for years. We had tried everything. They were testing Prozac for weight loss. I even got in that. Didn’t work, but I changed my doctor to the one that conducted the study locally.
    In the late ’90’s Mom had RNY gastric bypass surgery. We knew some people who had it and, at the time seemed ok. At least one of them died later. Speaking for myself: I got second opinions, etc. My doctor knew how hard I’d tried to loose weight, he said I was showing signs of type II diabetes and RNY was the way to treat it. There was a lot of diabetes in my family. I gave in. The surgeon said to take a good multivitamin and cyanocobolimine (synthetic B12 – closed ring) shot monthly. He said my personal doctor would handle follow-up.
    None did any blood work until I discovered what should have been done and insisted on it. When I started having complications, I went to him. He still told me to have the plastic surgery in 2003. Scars didn’t heal right, been in constant PAIN since. Went to specialist after specialist for about 10 years.
    Labeled “drug seeking” – they didn’t know the difference from “pain-relief-seeking”. Research on my own. Started taking benfotiamine (natural B12 – open ring) and other natural supplements about 2 years ago. A year and a half ago Mom died from it. I was fighting it and couldn’t be with her. I know she suffered. I did and am.
    I have improved significantly. I put my foot down and tell doctors right up front that my health is a partnership and I won’t take anything or have any procedures that I don’t research and approve. Known syndrome: malnourish syndrome due to gastric bypass. Stupid doctors!! Broke my collarbone about a year ago. Boniva – H*** NO! They want to put a pin in. Not until I’m comfortable that my immune system is no longer compromised. That’s what killed Mom. Osteoporosis, knee replaced, infection, death. Not for me! So far the doctors I’m with are working with me. Good.

  8. Barb

    I live in Colorado where MMJ is available thru prescription. Why would a doctor say I’m not a candidate for MMJ when my chart is full of chronic pain issues, including fibromyalgia sciatica, nerve pain, insomnia, etc. What is her view of the use of MMJ? You have to have cancer or a disease that is fatal? I don’t get it!

  9. Regina

    Contact the owner or head pharmacist and discuss the issue with them. Ask the pharmacist about a program that will help you with the meds financially.
    Good luck and please keep us posted.

  10. Carol W. P.

    My hubby is on Oxycodine and Morphine and he came home with the wrong dosage – small town pharmacy. What should we do about it? We struggle with little income and I was hoping they would help us out with the fact we did not report it right away.

  11. Michael R.

    93 year old mother in assisted living losing weight, complaining of stomach pain and not eating much. Checked her meds, arrived at digoxin as cause of stomach pain, took her to doctor and requested change, taken of digoxin, no ill effects, stomach pain went away, slowly gained some weight.
    Evidently all the years of doctor prescribed coumadin weren’t needed either, she was taken off that as a result of a temporary induction into the hospice program, and never seemed to need it again. She’s 96 now and doing fine. I wonder all the diet restrictions coumadin caused, if she would have eaten better if not on it. She never did like greens, though.

  12. FJR

    How about the royal “screw up” the pharmacists at CVS Phramacy made when they gave the cancer drug Tamoxifen to children instead of fluride for dental protection. I bet you could write a sequel book entitled “Screwups Pharmacists Make And How To Avoid Them”. It’s catchy title and should sell a lot of books.

  13. N. Low

    Members of my breast cancer support group at the Anaheim Regional Medical Center, Anaheim, CA, have experienced rotator cuff pain and shoulder injury requiring surgery some time after radiation treatment for their breast cancer. We compared stories and found out that we were all put into uncomfortable positions for long periods of time, with little or no support and “foam” devices that would have horrified regular physical therapists.
    We have received little or no response from the local radiology community which seems only interested in the dosages and concern if a patient “gets burned.” It would be helpful to know if anyone else has experienced this and if any prescribed medication impacted the condition. i.e. fosamax was one of the medications these ladies were taking – perhaps the bone spurs resulting in shoulder tears came from that? Thank you.

  14. C.M. Yarden

    After frequently repeated incidents of UTIs for well over a year, I asked my doctor to refer me to a urologist for tests. He said it was unnecessary and he treated me with medication appropriate for UTI. At that time things became so painful that a friend literally dragged me to her own doctor, then was referred to a urologist and the diagnosis was bladder cancer.
    Chances are that it could have been better treated had it been discovered earlier. I was treated with BCG for over 2 years and finally I am cancer-free. However, the treatment left me with chronic pain in the bladder and the ureter and can not function without regular and constant pain medication.
    The original doctor was stubborn and impatient when I asked for referrals to specialists… I changed doctors immediately, of course, but I find it difficult to be understanding and forgiving of his behavior.

  15. Peter T.

    I migrated to Australia 2 years ago from Singapore for better life. Soon after 3 months, the antihypertensive medicine ran out. I went to see a GP, he put me on Coversyl. Without knowing that I have been on calcium channel blocker and beta blocker for the past 10 years would mean switching to Ace inhibitor is quitting the former two cold turkey.
    Soon, withdrawal symptoms developed. I had panic and insomnia. I was referred to a psychiatrist and I was told I have depression. I was then prescribed Cipramil, at the same time I was also taking Valerian root to help me sleep. The psychiatrist told me that there is no drug interaction between Cipramil and Valerian root. He said the side effect was dry mouth and can resolve by drinking more water.
    Upon the very first dose, I developed tinnitus, full insomnia and heart palpitation. I called the PD the next day, he told me off not to tell him all these side effects and these were only temporary. I continue the medicine because he said it will take 4 weeks or more to be effective. The following few days, my I had visual hallucination, my blood pressure shot up to 180/110, I had difficulty urinating and I had constipation.
    I went to see GP and he said my kidneys are ok, he added more antihypertensive medicine for me and asked me to continue Cipramil. After 1 week, I couldn’t take it anymore and I went to A&E. I had not taken any food for the whole day and I felt full. The doctor in A&E checked my blood an told me I was fine and told me to go home.
    That night, I vomited strongest acid juice ever from my stomach and I realized I had GI blockage. I did self irrigation to save my life and took antiacid syrup. I went to A&E again the next morning and now they treated me with for constipation and told me to go home. Two days later, I did not feel right and I went to A&E again and they tested my blood and found that there was low sodium in my blood and I was asked to stop Cipramil.
    Few days later, I went to GP to have my blood test and they found my amalyse, lypase, Creatinine, Gama GT were high. It proved that my pancreas, liver and kidney were hurt in the whole episode. It took me 6 months before my blood test went back to normal level. I only took Cipramil for 10 days and it wrecked my life. I am now living with severe tinnitus and insomnia. Now trying to look for herbal treatment or TCM treatment.

  16. Beverly

    Actually, it is both the hospital and quack’s fault.

  17. sk

    Thank you People’s Pharmacy for a very needed program.
    Perhaps now is the time to tell a very painful story. It might alert some listeners/readers who might tend to dismiss these findings on hospital errors.
    Practically “never sick a day in his adult life” my father started feeling bad at age 58. He went to “the best” nearby university medical center. A cyst was found on his pancreas and removed. He returned home, and immediately felt well again.
    But about three days later the hospital called saying that the biopsy on the tissue removed indicated that it may have been pancreatic cancer, which is known to spread rapidly to the stomach and intestine, and that, to safeguard against the further spread of the cancer, they recommended immediate surgery to remove the pancreas, part of the stomach, and part of the large intestine.
    My mother tells the story that when they returned to the hospital to prepare for the second surgery an attending physician strongly urged my father to wait before undergoing what was considered radical surgery, of doubtful benefit, until there were clear signs that cancer of the pancreas was in fact present and that it was spreading. He explained that, without a pancreas, the patient would then have to take pig pancreas extract daily in order to digest food.
    For reasons that never have been clear to me, Dad decided to undergo the surgery. He died about 18 months later at the age of 60. The pig pancreas extract did not work, and we watched a 6″ 2′, 210 pound man waste away. He weighed about 70 pounds when he died.
    Our mother told us that, prior to making the final payments for the surgery, when she was going through the medical records sent by the hospital, she found a copy of the biopsy test report on the tissue from the cyst removal, and it was negative for cancer. Of course, the whole family was shocked, dismayed, and felt the incident was nearly unbelievable.
    On the one hand it appears to be something other than a case of hospital error. On the other hand, in a broader context, it probably could be very successfully argued that, in fact, this was exactly a case of hospital error.

  18. cpmt

    In my case I don’t think it was an error, but luck of coordination, organization, and possible nurses error or???
    I recently ‘visited’ a famous hospital for a surgery… MY GOD WHAT AN EXPERIENCE…1. I didn’t even know what type of surgery I was going to have until the day of the surgery because the 1st. surgeon refused to see me before or answered my phone calls… nor his secretary, his nurse or anyone else in his office. The second surgeon that was also going to be there DID NOT KNOW ANYTHING EITHER. He was surprised when the 1st. surgeon told him he has changed the surgery without telling anyone
    2. In the hospital, the second day after the surgery, a resident-med.student (surgeon??) took me for a 20 minutes ride all over the hospital to take x-rays of my chest 12:00 midnight!!! … when I asked him, he said because my heart was going too fast… and possible I was having a heart attack.
    3. the 3th and the last night in the hospital the night nurse came to my room, give me a shot, she refused to tell me what kind of shot it was but 15 min. later I was hot, dizziness,sweaty I was not feeling well and I called the nurse and the assistant nurse etc. when they check my BLOOD PRESSURE it was 180 and 200 !! (my B.P. always has been low, between 115-68 apprx) they didn’t know what to do, they waited 30 min. and my BP went down to 135. This happened twice. NOW I WONDER if something like this happened to another person and get very sick, the family or the dr. will never know what happened. I am not sure if I should say anything in charge in the hospital. I just can’ believe it happened in this hospital. I was lucky nothing serious happened.

  19. K.W

    Following a minor surgery, my brother, who had pancreatic cancer, was given a bollus of Dilantin. shortly thereafter he went into a comma from which he never recovered. But it probably made an easier death from the terminal cancer.

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