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Doctor Hospital Mistakes Cause More than 250,000 deaths in the U.S. annually

Each year, more than 250,000 deaths in the United States occur as a result of medical error, making it the third leading cause of death in the country. This is the conclusion of a 2016 study published in The BMJ And reported in the online Medical News Today. The study does not address medical mistakes by doctors or hospital that result in injury in additional treatment for the patient. Our lawyers frequently get calls from people injured in a hospital or clinic or who got the wrong treatment.

Each year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) compile a list of the leading causes of death in the U.S., based on information recorded on death certificates. However, medical error does not currently feature on death certificates. With the aim of addressing this data gap, the authors of the paper analyzed the results of four studies that assessed the rate of medical death in the U.S. between 2000-2008. One of these studies, the authors note, was from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Inspector General and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Combining that data with the number of hospital admission rates that occurred in the U.S. in 2013, the researchers estimated that 251,454 deaths occur as a result of medical error each year.

They point out that the CDC list of the leading causes of death in the U.S. puts heart disease at the top (responsible for 611,105 deaths), cancer as the second leading cause (548,881 deaths), and chronic respiratory disease as the third leading cause of death (149,205 deaths). Therefore, the annual rate of medical malpractice deaths of 251,454 estimated in this study suggests medical error is the third leading cause of death in the U.S.

Based on their results, the authors call for medical errors to be classified as a separate cause of death on medical certificates – a move that would enable researchers and public health organizations to better understand the scale of the problem. “Top-ranked causes of death as reported by the CDC inform our country’s research funding and public health priorities,” notes Makary. “Right now, cancer and heart disease get a ton of attention, but since medical errors don’t appear on the list, the problem doesn’t get the funding and attention it deserves.” As the authors point out, it is impossible to eliminate human error, but they say it is possible to better measure the issue in order to identify ways to reduce medical errors and malpractice.

If you have been injured, or a family member has died, because of negligence by a doctor, hospital, or clinic, call us and speak with a lawyer for a free consultation.