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Medical Errors Are a Leading Cause of Death

Casey Woodruff

undefinedMedical Malpractice and the High Rates of Medical Mistakes

According to a recent report from PBS NewsHour, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not currently list medical mistakes or medical errors as causes of death when it compiles its annual statistics. However, researchers from Johns Hopkins University (JHU) emphasize that medical errors are actually the third-leading cause of death in our country, and we need to do more both to prevent them and to raise awareness about their severity.

While we do not have precise numbers that show the total number of deaths each year from medical mistakes, a new paper from JHU researchers suggests that “as many as 250,000 people die each year from errors in hospitals and other healthcare facilities.” When we put that number up against other known causes of death in the United States—including respiratory diseases, accidents, and strokes—we find that medical mistakes are in fact the third most common killer in our country. Given that many of these medical errors are completely avoidable, it is important for patients who have been injured to file a medical malpractice lawsuit in order to seek financial compensation.

Details of the Recent Research on Medical Negligence 

According to the report, the JHU researchers prefaced their study by making clear that “the numbers are scarce” when it comes to having a definitive figure for fatalities resulting from medical errors. However, what we do have—and what the researchers relied upon—were “studies of hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations in the top medical journals.” The author of the study, Dr. Martin Makary, explained that, through the numbers and incidents discussed in these journals, he was able to come up with the figure of 251,000 deadly medical errors per year. This figure falls within the broad range that researchers have suspected for quite a while—between 200,000 and 400,000 fatal medical mistakes annually.

Why are these statistics not included in CDC reports? The issue is not that the CDC fails to consider medical mistakes a serious problem (or potential cause of death). Rather, as Dr. Makary explains, the CDC takes its statistics from hospital billing codes, through which national health statistics are compiled. Yet when someone dies because of a surgical mistake or a medication error, that information is not part of the billing code. Indeed, as Dr. Makary clarified to PBS NewsHour, “people don’t always die of a billing code.” To be sure, he underscored, “they can die from diagnostic errors, fragmented care, preventable complications.”

Johns Hopkins University has a research center in patient safety, but it is, according to Dr. Makary, “vastly underfunded and underappreciated.” He emphasized that we need to think carefully about putting funding toward medical error prevention, much the same way we consider it important to fund research related to heart disease and cancer prevention.

Contact a Champaign Medical Malpractice Lawyer

It is important to recognize the serious harms related to medical errors and to consider new ways to prevent the severe and often fatal injuries that result from them. In the meantime, if you or someone you love sustained serious or life-threatening injuries because of your healthcare provider’s negligence, you should speak with an experienced Champaign medical malpractice lawyer about filing a claim for compensation. Contact Woodruff Johnson & Evans to discuss your options.

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