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A think tank called Resources for the Future recently finished a study concerning deaths by hospital patients by pneumonia and infection. The numbers are startling. They found that in 2006 48,000 patients were killed and the cost was $8.1 billion. They also found that 1.7 million health care-associated infections are diagnosed every year.

The identified causes were poor screen of patients by the hospitals and improper cleaning. Doctor’s lab coats and nurse’s uniforms routinely pick up bacteria when they lean over patients.

To protect yourself :

Reducing risk
Following these tips and 10 others listed at

•Ask that hospital staff clean their hands before treating you, and ask visitors to clean their hands too. If you’re worried about being too aggressive, just remember your life could be at stake.

•Before your doctor uses a stethoscope, ask that the diaphragm (the flat surface) be wiped with alcohol.

•If you need a “central line” catheter, ask your doctor about the benefits of one that is antibiotic-impregnated or coated with silver chlorhexidine to reduce infections.

•If you need surgery, choose a surgeon with a low infection rate. Surgeons know their rate of infection for various procedures. Don’t be afraid to ask for it.

•Beginning three to five days before surgery, shower or bathe daily with chlorhexidine soap.

As with any wrongful death in a Minnesota hospital due to medical error , there are a number of issues that will need to be reviewed. My partner, Joe Crumley, addressed the general wrongful death topic in a recent article for the Minnesota Lawyers Trial magazine. I was interviewed last year on the same topic.

This is an area of law that requires prompt attention and help from a trained legal adviser. The legal adviser has to be able to deal with not only the insurance issues, but also the various medical questions involved. In each of these cases, time may be very limited. It is important that the advice of an attorney is obtained as soon as possible. These cases also require the help of a knowledgeable medical expert. It is essential that all issues are dealt with as soon as possible.

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