Medical Misconduct Remains Third Leading Cause of Death

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Rate of Medical Malpractice and Negligence Has Not Declined, Says Recent Johns Hopkins Study

Back in 2013, an article in NPR cited a study published in the Journal of Patient Safety, which suggested that there are anywhere from 210,000 to 440,000 deaths every year related to medical malpractice or negligence. In fact, at that time the “third-leading cause of death in America, behind heart disease, which is the first, and cancer, which is second.” Since the publication of that study, researchers have sought to explore a variety of ways to reduce the rates of medical malpractice suits. However, according to a recent Johns Hopkins study reported in CNBC, medical misconduct remain the third-leading cause of death in the United States after heart disease and cancer. The only way to reduce the number of medical malpractice and negligence mistakes, some advocates argue, is to pass patient safety legislation.

The Johns Hopkins study reported that “more than 250,000 people in the United States die every year because of medical misconduct,” and there are other recent studies that indicate that number is significantly higher. Why is there so much confusion about the total number of deaths that result from medical malpractice? As the study suggests: “physicians, funeral directors, coroners, and medical examiners rarely note on death certificates the human errors and system failures involved.” Yet the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) relies on information from those sources to gather data about deaths caused by medical mistakes. Therefore, it remains a possibility that up to 440,000 deaths continue to occur every year because of medical errors.

The authors of the Johns Hopkins study say that the CDC needs to change its methods. In addition, we need better tools to track patient safety and deaths caused by medical malpractice and negligence. If we can get a clearer number when it comes to patient deaths and medical errors, according to many patient safety advocates, we can develop better protocols for reducing those numbers.

It is important to note that many hospitals across the country have already implemented programs designed to encourage hospital staff to identify possible medical errors. Keeping electronic records can also help hospitals and doctor’s offices collect this data.

Getting the Facts About Medical Malpractice, Negligence, and Medical Errors

According to the authors of the Johns Hopkins study, the following are some of the common types of medical errors that can result in avoidable patient deaths:

  • Medical error resulting from inadequately skilled staff members;
  • Errors in judgment;
  • Errors in care;
  • Computer breakdowns;
  • Electronic mix-ups of patient doses;
  • Electronic errors concerning medications patients currently take, resulting in adverse drug interactions; and
  • Surgical complications.

If you or a loved one were injured as a result of medical malpractice or negligence, you may be entitled to financial compensation in a medical malpractice claim. Contact a medical malpractice lawyer to discuss your situation and determine your rights.

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