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As children, we are taught to wash our hands. We are taught to wash our hands before and after eating, after using the restroom, after playing outside and generally after having touched too many surfaces in any public place. We are taught to wash our hands not only because it helps to prevent illness within our own bodies, but also in the bodies of others.

A staggering number of medical malpractice claims are filed annually on behalf of patients who have been harmed by healthcare providers who simply fail to properly wash and sterilize their hands and other equipment. When healthcare providers fail to properly wash their hands, deadly infections can spread at astonishing rates. Surgical patients, immunosuppressed patients and other vulnerable populations can either experience severe complications or die as a result of a healthcare provider's negligent decision to avoid proper hand washing.

Increasingly, studies indicate that unless healthcare providers are incentivized, encouraged or directly held accountable for proper hand washing, they choose to behave responsibly only about thirty percent of the time. As a result of these frustrating rates of compliance with hygienic practices, hospitals are going so far as to videotape their employees, install motion sensors and discipline those who fail to wash their hands.

Reducing both rates of hospital-acquired infections and the spread of superbugs within hospital settings depend on proper hand washing at all times. In addition, it is critical that those who harm patients due to their negligent approach to this practice be held accountable for the consequences they have caused. Patients who have suffered hospital-acquired infections that may have been caused by improper hygiene should consider contacting an experienced attorney who can advise you of your options and help you to hold negligent parties accountable.

Source: New York Times, "With Money at Risk, Hospitals Push Staff to Wash Hands," Anemona Hartocollis, May 28, 2013

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