Three Terrifying Medical Chart Errors

March 25, 2022

Do you suffer from nosocomephobia? That’s the fear of hospitals. Being admitted for treatment is already frightening for many people; adding chart errors and other medical mistakes into the mix makes it terrifying.

Unfortunately, patients’ apprehensions are often warranted. In one study of electronic health record (EHR) charts, researchers found that fully 25% of patients reported errors in their charts, sometimes serious ones as in the case where a patient’s chart contained a completely false cancer diagnosis.

Let’s look at some scary errors in medical charts and what caused them.

Absurd Abbreviations

EHRs systems use a version of autocorrect that can speed up the task of transcription, but this shortcut also makes it all too easy to err. Take the case of one woman whose chart said she’d presented with “morphine sulfate”—a drug, not a symptom. It wasn’t until the attending nurse cross-checked the patient’s outside chart against her medical history that he clocked the mistake. A notation of “MS” was mistaken to mean morphine sulfate instead of the real issue: Multiple Sclerosis.

The File Failure

Another mix-up occurred when two patients with the same relatively common name arrived at an emergency department within minutes of each other. When the paramedic gave Patient #2’s name to the ED clerk, the clerk grabbed Patient #1’s file. In the commotion, no one thought to double-check the date of birth, so nurses began treating Patient #2 according to Patient #1’s symptoms. You can imagine what devastating consequences could result from a misstep like this.

A Fatal Failure

In both of these cases, no lasting harm was done. However, a study out of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine shows that medical errors have devastating consequences and are, in fact, the nation’s third-leading cause of death.

Such was the case with two-year-old Emily Jerry, whose last round of chemotherapy to treat an abdominal tumor resulted in her death. The little girl had been declared cancer-free, but her parents opted for one last round of chemo to be on the safe side. The technician preparing Emily’s IV bag, mistakenly added over 20 times the normal amount of sodium chloride. Emily was declared brain dead just hours later and died after three days on life support.

Take Action After a Medical Error

The possibility of such a medical chart error happening to you or someone you love is higher than you might think. If a doctor, nurse, or other healthcare provider has made a mistake during treatment, you may be entitled to damages. Give us a call to schedule a complimentary, no-obligation consultation.

Call Lowenthal & Abrams, P.C., or visit us online today.


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