Medical Errors Considered the Third Leading Cause of Death in U.S.

Gavel & StethoscopeA report was released last month by The BMJ claiming that medical errors should be considered the third leading cause of death[1] in the U.S. The idea of a medical malpractice event occurring is quite concerning because these are medical professionals who we are supposed to trust with our health. When they fail in this and serious injury or even death occurs, the doctor should be held responsible. Unfortunately, due to the current way that causes of death are reported, the entire scope of deaths related to medical errors is not known.

The BMJ reports that there are roughly 251,000 deaths each year caused by medical errors in hospitals and other healthcare facilities. These errors result in more deaths than accidents, stroke, respiratory disease, and Alzheimer’s.

Currently, when someone passes away, cause of death is dictated by an insurance billing code. There is a lack of data on medical errors because these types of codes don’t currently properly track these types of errors. In 1999, preventable medical errors were called an epidemic by the Institute of Medicine. This began the discussion of what can be done to help stop the problem, and now we are able to see the true trouble involved.

The research was led by Martin Makary, a professor of surgery at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. The category he researched included all types of medical errors, including communication errors during transfer within the hospital, inexperienced doctors, and more. The total number was derived from four large studies regarding medical error. It breaks down to roughly 700 deaths a day in the United States, equaling about 9.5% of all annual deaths.

Medical errors can include anything from anesthesia errors, birth injuries, missed diagnosis, medication errors, or any of the acts on the list of “never events.” These never events include leaving a foreign object inside a patient after surgery — such as a sponge or surgical tool — performing surgery on the wrong patient, or performing surgery on the wrong part of the body.

Because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not require medical errors to be reported in analyzed data regarding death through billing codes, there are some who feel this number can be even higher. As such, Makary believes that the CDC should update the requirements of vital statistics reporting and make it necessary for physicians to report whether or not an error led to a preventable death.

The worst part about medical errors is the fact that they are preventable actions. They are a result of negligence and the repercussions can be deadly. It is important that these medical professionals are held responsible for their actions and the victims — or the family of the victim — can pursue a lawsuit to obtain justice after a medical error results in a serious injury or death.

At Cantor Stoneburner Ford Grana Buckner, we have the necessary experience to represent clients in medical malpractice lawsuits. We have obtained more than 85 settlements and verdicts surpassing $1 million for our clients. We know how devastating medical errors can be on the victim, or in matters where a person loses their life, the family of a victim. We take the time to gather the details of your case, explain the process to you, and work hard to represent your needs in negotiations or in trial. If you lost someone you love as a result of a medical error, reach out to our firm and learn how we may be able to help you obtain compensation and justice.

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