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


Troubling news has hit the medical community and the public is now concerned more than ever about the medical treatment they receive, and the possibility of being a victim of medical malpractice. Researchers at John Hopkins University released a detailed study that shows if medical errors were classified as a disease, it would rank as the third leading cause of death in the country, only behind heart disease and cancer, and largely ahead of respiratory disease.

The study is compiled from an evaluation and analysis of four different studies conducted over an eight year period, and the results are alarming. In one year, over 250,000 deaths in hospitals are due to medical errors, which accounts for almost 10 percent of deaths in the country and 700 deaths a day. The study defines a medical error as an intervention by the health care system that causes a preventable death, including misdiagnosis, surgical errors, medication mistakes, serious infections and a lack of follow-up care. Even more worrisome is the study did not include other types of medical facilities such as out-patient clinics and nursing homes. The study also does not take into account the number of non-fatal but severe injuries due to medical errors.

The study’s author, Dr. Martin Makary, feels part of the problem is that medical errors are not listed on death certificates as a cause of death. So, if a mistake led to a condition that brought about a patient’s death, that condition is listed as the cause of death, not the error that put the patient in the fatal situation. Also on a death certificate, the underlying cause of death is listed as the injury or illness that brought the patient to the hospital, not the error that lead to the person’s death. If there is no way to keep track of fatal medical errors, there are no statistics to evaluate, which leads to no funding to correct the problem along with a lack of case studies for doctors to learn from.

Dr. Makary would like the Centers for Disease Control to require death certificates include medical errors as the cause of death when applicable so the errors can be reported. He also cautions that in some cases medical errors take place not necessarily because a doctor made a mistake, but rather because of, “system-wide failings and poorly coordinated care.” This includes a lack in communication among health care professionals, patients being passed along to different doctors, a breakdown in assisting patients with follow-up care and even issues with insurance companies.

It is not an exaggeration that these latest findings are a result of, “medical care gone awry,” according to Dr. Makary. While reforms still need to be implemented, he encourages individuals to bring a loved one to a doctor’s appointment or the hospital, and to seek a second opinion for surgery or a new medication regimen. However, even when precautions are taken, mistakes are still made, and those mistakes can be costly. If you or someone you love has suffered as a result of a medical error or medical malpractice, it is a stressful and emotional time. Contact the experienced and compassionate attorneys at Finz & Finz, P.C., to relieve the burden of taking on these medical professionals for their negligence.

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Finz & Finz, P.C. is a New York and Long Island personal injury law firm based out of Mineola, NY. It was founded in 1984 and is highly rated, with many honors and awards of excellence.