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Medical Errors Third-Leading Cause of Death in America


A recent report claims that medical errors are the third-leading cause of death in America, after heart disease and cancer.

Over a decade ago, the Institute of Medicine published “To Err Is Human”, a report that attributed 98,000 deaths to hospital mistakes. The 1999 report was widely criticized and disputed at the time, but the number is now widely accepted by the medical field.

Fast forward to 2010, when the Office of Inspector General for Health and Human Services reported that 180,000 hospital patients in Medicare die each year due to poor hospital care.

The number continues to grow. A 2013 study in the Journal of Patient Safetyestimates that in the upcoming year 210,000 to 440,000 patients who are hospitalized will suffer some sort of preventable harm that will contribute to their death. The study, lead by John James, a toxicologist for NASA, has been publicly supported by many prominent physicians.

The figure was based on four recent studies that identified preventable harm using a screening method called the Global Trigger Tool, in which reviewers scan medical records for signs of infection, injury or error. If the medical record is flagged, a medical doctor will review it to determine the extent of the harm. The studies examined over 4,000 medical records and found serious adverse events in as many as 21 percent of cases and rates of lethal adverse events as high as 1.4 percent of cases. This data, when applied to the 34 million hospitalizations in 2007, resulted in a conclusion that preventable errors contributed to the deaths of 210,000 hospital patients each year.

Several distinguished doctors are calling for changes to the current healthcare system. Suggestions include a national patient bill of rights, greater transparency in health care, and increasing awareness of the likelihood of medical errors.

As a law firm that regularly represents patients or families of those affected by medical errors, we strongly support the effort to eliminate medical errors. If you or a loved one suffered injury from a medical error, please contact us to discuss the possibility of a medical malpractice case. Our extensive experience handling medical malpractice cases may help you obtain compensation for medical and rehabilitation costs, lost wages, lost earning capacity, pain and suffering, and more.

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