Medical Errors Kill More Than 250,000 People Each Year

surgeon.jpgHeart disease is the number one killer in the United States. Cancer is number two. The third leading cause of death in the United States, according to a new study, is medical errors.

The study from John Hopkins Medicine’s Armstrong Institute for Safety and Quality estimates that more than one-quarter of a million people in this country die each year from medical mistakes. A first in-depth look into medical errors in the United States calculated that as many as 98,000 deaths occur annually from a medical mistake. Another estimate put the number at over 400,000 people killed.

Examples of Medical Errors

Today’s leading types of preventable medical mistakes include:

  • Surgical errors, such as operating on the wrong part of the patient’s body
  • Medication errors, such as administering the wrong drug or the wrong dosage
  • Misdiagnosis, such as missing a dire medical condition
  • Serious errors during the child delivery process

Holding Hospitals Accountable for Preventing Medical Mistakes

The study’s authors identify the need for health care providers and institutions to better track medical mistakes and design systems to prevent them. They suggest a three-step process that calls for:

  • Making medical mistakes more visible and encouraging medical staff to report errors
  • Responding to medical errors with quality skill and medical judgment
  • Reducing medical errors by encouraging a culture of safety and patient care

A hospital’s concern for patient safety can be a major factor in reducing catastrophic medical errors. The Leapfrog Group, an organization focused on patient safety, recently released its annual rankings of hospital patient safety. Participating hospitals were given an “A,” “B,” “C,” “D,” or “F.” The best hospitals received an “A” and the worst a failing grade of “F.” According to the organization, hospitals that received a “D” or an “F” had a 50 percent higher risk for avoidable patient deaths than “A”-rated hospitals.

Less than a quarter of all Missouri hospitals in this effort received an “A” rating, placing the Show Me State 36th out of all 50 states.

Caregivers are going to make mistakes. But as this new study points out, healthcare providers and hospitals can and should do a better job of preventing them. The fact that medical mistakes kill more than 250,000 people each year reflects the serious consequences of medical negligence.

If you had a family member die due to a catastrophic medical error, you may want to speak with an experienced medical malpractice attorney, who can identify those responsible and have the mistake formally addressed to hopefully stop it from happening to others.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertising.