Good Medicine

Hospitals make mistakes. What to ask when taking charge of your treatment

An old saw says a hospital can be a dangerous place for a healthy person. Horror stories abound, from infectious bacteria lurking on every surface to medications mistakenly administered. If dangers like these make you worried, relax. From a simple procedure to more elaborate surgery, a few precautions can ensure a safe visit. You just need to know what to look for.

Take, for example, mistakes with medications. In 2002 about 500 hospitals and health-care facilities across the country reported almost 200,000 mistakes in prescribing and dispensing medicine, according to the United States Pharmacopeia, the organization that sets standards for prescription...

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