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10 Percent of U.S. Deaths Attributed to Medical Errors

medical errors malpractice In 2016, a John Hopkins University study revealed that medical errors had become the third leading cause of death in the United States, with only heart disease and cancer coming ahead in cause for death. That year, 251,000 preventable deaths were the result of a medical error. The study also showed that the CDC’s data was not accurate as it lacked a method to collect national health statistics that would properly classify medical errors as the cause of death on death certificates. This means medical error deaths are widely unreported, as they are often attributed to illnesses in which the patient sought care rather than the error that caused death.

The new study sparked a renewed interest in the topic of medical errors. This year at AAPA, a conference for the American Academy of PAs, Tatsiana Singh, MPAS, PA-C, Indiana State University Sycamore Center for Wellness, explained some efforts have been made that healthcare providers are aware of, despite the lack of reliable information. In the Institute of Medicine’s report in 1999, it was estimated that 98,000 people had died due to medical errors, which is what many articles had been referring to in the past, despite it being 30-year-old data.

This is due to a lack of attempt to review the information, with only a handful of attempts since on a national scale. A smaller-scale attempt that was published in the Journal of Patient Safety in 2013 revealed an estimate of 200-4000,000 annual deaths due to medical errors. Even further, there is a 10-20-fold higher, or 2 to 4 million people annually, of patients that suffer serious consequences due to medical errors but do not die. Looking at this information, it appears medical errors easily qualify as the third leading cause of death in the United States. These numbers could be a gross underestimate as the information is based on reviewing medical charts, which could be inaccurate.

Even further, there are some studies that suggest 10 – 30% of autopsies reveal misdiagnoses after the patient has died. The leading medical errors, based on the data from the Joint Commission, are operating on the wrong patient, doing the wrong surgery, or the wrong body part, followed by unintentional retention of a foreign object during surgery and delay in diagnosis. This means patients in the ICU and undergoing surgery are at the highest risk for medical error.

If you or a loved one have suffered consequences due to the negligent acts of a doctor, contact our team today to find out your legal options.


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