A new report has determined that “medical errors” which occur in hospitals, as well as other health care facilities, have become the third leading cause of death in this country. More than a quarter of a million people die every year from preventable mistakes by medical personnel. Only cancer and heart disease kill more people in the United States than medical errors do.
The medical community – and their patients – was left reeling when a 1999 report issued by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) revealed that almost 100,000 people died each year from medical errors. That report – which was based on one study – triggered a still-ongoing debate about patient safety and what steps those who are responsible for that safety should be taking.
The recent report was compiled by researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and published on the British Medical Journal’s online publication, The BMJ. The researchers gathered data from four different studies, including ones performed by the Health and Human Services Department’s Office of the Inspector General and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
The data from these studies revealed 251,000 medical error deaths happen in the United States each year – or 700 deaths every day. However, there is a significant possibility those numbers are actually higher – maybe even as high as 400,000 victims annually. Too often, the cause of death on a victim’s death certificate does not reveal that it was a medical error, but death certificates are where many federal agencies collect their statistics. By not having a place on the death certificate to record whether or not the death was medical error-related, the current system inadvertently hides just how much of an epidemic this has become.
Some of the more common medical errors that showed up in the study include:
- Diagnostic errors;
- Patients being given the incorrect medication;
- Failure to consult with a medical specialist;
- Failure to catch signs of potentially fatal conditions (such as septic shock);
- Unnecessary surgeries; and
- Surgical mishaps (such as nicking an artery).
The study’s author says it is not just human medical errors that are causing these fatalities. There are many system medical errors which result in fatalities, with too many patients being allowed to “fall through the cracks,” such as patients being sent home without being given proper instructions or what type of follow-up care they should have.
For more information on medical errors, check out this info page. If you have lost a loved one due to a medical error, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the medical personnel and/or providers involved. Contact our firm for a free consultation.