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Betsy McCaughey, chairwoman and founder of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths, recently stated that at least 103,000 people die from hospital-acquired infections annually in the U.S. If that number is even close to accurate, the loss is staggering. McGaughey, a former lieutenant governor of New York, also said that one in 10 patients will contract an infection when they’re at the hospital.

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. But in a 2007 study, she said, 65 percent of doctors and other medical professionals admitted they had not washed their lab coat in at least a week.

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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