BMJ Researchers: Medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States

BMJ Researchers: Medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States

We’ve all heard the horror stories of patients receiving the wrong medications, surgeons amputating the wrong limb or the wrong patient being removed from life support. Many health care practitioners would have you believe that these incidents are exceptions, not the rule. A recent study, released by the British Medical Journal (BMJ), has shed new light on how frequent these events really are.

The report, released by BMJ researches studying patient safety, indicates that medical errors in hospitals and other healthcare related practices are more common than we are led to believe and may be the third leading cause of death in the United States. The report states that medical errors claim 251,000 lives each year, almost 10% of all deaths in the United States. That’s almost 700 deaths every day, caused by medical errors. Based on statistics from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), that’s more deaths than respiratory disease, accidents, stroke, Alzheimer’s or diabetes. Only cancer and heart disease account for more deaths in the United States.

“It boils down to people dying from the care that they receive rather than the disease for which they are seeking care.”

The research was led by Martin Makary who is a professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. According to Makary, the research includes bad doctors and systematic issues such as breakdowns in communication when patients are transferred from one department to another. Makary stated, “It boils down to people dying from the care that they receive rather than the disease for which they are seeking care.”

According to Makary, he and co-author Michael Daniel, also from John Hopkins, conducted the research to bring more light to an issue that most hospitals avoid discussing.

While almost all hospitals and healthcare facilities tout patient safety, safety committees and protocols that they have, very few actually provide specifics of actual cases of medical error to the public. Additionally, the CDC does not require the reporting of medical errors for the data it collects about deaths in the United States. This makes it difficult to analyze medical error related deaths at the national level. “The CDC should update its vital statistics reporting requirements so that physicians must report whether there was any error that led to a preventable death,” Makary said.

Frederick van Pelt, a physician with healthcare consultancy Chartis Group, indicated that the number of severe patient injuries due to medical error is often overlooked.

van Pelt stated, “Some estimates would put this number at 40 times the death rate. Again, this gets buried in the daily exposure that care providers have around patients who are suffering or in pain that is to be expected following procedures.”

If you or a loved one have been seriously injured or died as a result of medical error, contact the medical malpractice lawyers of Lutz, Bobo & Telfair, P.A., you may have a case. Our law firm offers no cost consultations for personal injury cases. Our fees are also handled on a contingency basis. This means that we only charge attorney’s fees if we win the case. For our client’s convenience, we have offices located in Sarasota, Bradenton, Punta Gorda and Tallahassee.

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