Know your body: how to fight medical errors
This may shock you: medical mistakes are the third-leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer in America. In this blog, we share the best antidote against preventable medical mistakes to help you protect yourself and those you love.
The facts: 3rd leading cause of death
We all heard the saying "no one is perfect", right? Humans make mistakes. But, when it comes to your life or that of someone you love, that mistake suddenly becomes a lot more frightening. And, let me tell you: the statistics below threw me off my chair.
In the US alone, more than 250,000 people die every year due to medical errors, according to a recent study by Johns Hopkins.
The British Medical Journal (the BMJ) refers to preventable medical errors as:
anything from communication breakdowns, diagnostic errors, poor judgement, and inadequate skills, which can directly result in patient harm and death.
Pretty shocking eh? Now, what if I told you that other studies report figures as high as 440,000.
Why such a big gap? Well, physicians, funeral directors, coroners and medical examiners rarely note on death certificates the human errors and system failures involved. Yet death certificates are what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rely on to post statistics for deaths nationwide.
Like me, you probably grew up being told to eat your veggies and listen to your teacher.
And, if you were lucky enough to grow up in a country with free health care like Canada,
Mama told you to rush to the doctor at the first sign of a cough.
After all there must be a pill for that - good ol' doc knows best, right?
So, we trust authority. We listen to doctors, specialists, and self-proclaimed health gurus.
Yet, preventable medical errors come third after heart disease and cancer in the US.
It took me a good 30 years before learning how to tune in to my inner wisdom.
You know that little voice that whispers to you like a friend – does it make sense?
I have yoga and meditation (and my fair share of health challenges) to thank for that.
But, even now, sometimes I find myself questioning that inner voice.
Yesterday, I felt relieved.
For weeks now, my head has been thrown into chaos about my cervix.
Perhaps you know what I mean? Lost between conflicting reports about your health.
Confused on who or what to believe, and where to go next.
Think about it: deep down, we always know whether something rings true or not.
6 ½ years ago I had a full trachelectomy, which is the complete removal of my cervix.
My cervix was "man-made", created like a work of art from muscle tissues.
For the past weeks, medical experts claimed that I needed more surgeries, that my cervix may not be strong enough to hold my baby, some going as far as suggesting a stretching device to allow a so-called “natural birth".
Said what now??
There she is: my inner voice.
She was echoing what my oncologist said all those years ago:
“Melanie I built this cervix strong enough to hold a baby one day.”
So, understand my confusion when I go from scan to scan, test to test, expert to expert. As they all scratch their head to assess a cervix that is quite simply not there.
A “cervix-like structure” that doesn’t stretch, doesn’t behave like a cervix. Because it's not.
Write this one down: the truth is often incredibly simple.
Yesterday, the universe sent me this doctor who worked with my oncologist years ago.
Her words were music to my ears: “your cervix is rock solid, it will not move!”
YESSS!! My cervix will do exactly what it’s meant to do: keep bubba in place.
I'm ok with the "no natural birth" thing.
In fact, I'm incredibly grateful for this gift of life. I even feel relieved.
Why put any more stress on this part of my body that has already gone through so much.
C-section it is – a powerful scar that I will wear proudly. A testimony of life beyond scars.
Now, how to protect yourself from medical mistakes?
Before I go, let me be clear here:
I do NOT for a second suggest that we boycott the medical system altogether. What I'm saying is to know your body and your rights, so you can protect yourself.
My advice is:
Know The Charter of Healthcare Rights in your country.
Get screened for preventable cancers.
Ask questions and get checked if something doesn’t feel right.
Ask for a second opinion if you feel your doctor missed something.
Most importantly, listen to what your body is telling you.
Now you see that it's so important to listen to your body. No one knows your body better than you do, so ask questions if you don't understand or don't agree with something your doctor said. Those rights can also help you protect those you love and care for.