Around 560 patients from Hesse reported suspected treatment errors to Techniker Krankenkasse (TK) last year.

Most of the suspected cases concern surgical interventions (148 cases) as well as the fields of dentistry (72), general medicine (49), obstetrics (43) and orthopedics (23).

Every third suspicion was confirmed in the course of a review, the cash register states.

Across Germany, TK registered a slight decrease in the number of complaints about treatment errors among its policyholders in the 2021 pandemic year.

A total of 5,981 insured persons suspected incorrect medical treatment, 40 cases fewer than in the previous year (minus five percent).

Ralph Euler

Editor in the Rhein-Main-Zeitung, responsible for the Rhein-Main section of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sunday newspaper.

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The number of recognized medical treatment errors, on the other hand, rose to 128 in Hesse last year.

The year before there were 93, as reported by the State Medical Association.

In the past year, patients or relatives had submitted 804 applications to the expert and arbitration board of the State Medical Association for suspected treatment errors;

after 858 in the previous year.

According to the chamber, most of the allegations related to the fields of orthopaedics, trauma surgery, general surgery, gynecology, internal medicine, cardiology and neurosurgery.

Compared to 2020, the number of applications in the fields of hand surgery and neurology has fallen significantly.

Nationwide, more than 6,000 suspected cases were reported to TK last year.

According to the medical service of the health insurance companies in Germany, more than 80 people died in 2020 after a mistake by doctors or nurses.

It is not known how many medical errors occur in Germany every year because there is no binding reporting system.

Problems in enforcing claims

Patients still have insufficient legal protection after mistakes made by doctors or nursing staff.

Although a patient rights law was introduced for the first time almost ten years ago, it is unfortunately evident that there are still problems in enforcing patient claims.

Many people do not even suspect that they have become the victim of a treatment error because they know too little about the course of treatment and because it is difficult to clarify suspected cases.

For example, the health insurance companies are still not obliged to inform their members if there are obvious indications of treatment errors.

The cash registers usually only take action if there is a specific request.

Due to the strict requirements for the presentation of evidence, lawsuits due to treatment errors are usually dismissed even if an error on the part of the person treating you has led to a high probability of injury to the patient.

This was confirmed by a report by a forensic doctor presented by the German social association at the beginning of the year.

Even judges criticize that medical liability processes are largely left to chance.

In fact, it is often difficult for patients to tell whether an illness is fateful or whether doctors or nurses have made mistakes.

If insured persons doubt the services of a treating doctor or if something went wrong during the treatment, those affected should not hesitate to contact the health insurance company and ask for support in clarifying the matter. 

Create memory log

If the patient's description is plausible, the insurance company requests the treatment documents.

If there is a reasonable suspicion, the health insurance company can have medical reports drawn up, which are usually free of charge for the insured person.

The patients can then use this expertise for their own compensation negotiations with the doctors, the hospital, the responsible liability insurance company or in court.

Claims arising from treatment errors become time-barred after three years, with the period beginning at the end of the year in which the error can be proven to have occurred.

The chances of success in proving a medical error are greater the more precisely the course of the disease is documented.

Those affected should create a memory log of the course of treatment and the doctors and nurses involved as soon as possible.

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