Medical errors pose large risk of death

For patients and their families, medical malpractice can have devastating and long-term consequences. In fact, evidence shows medical errors could become a major component of wrongful death lawsuits. Approximately 9.5 percent of all deaths in this country can be attributed to medical error, according to a John Hopkins 2016 study.

Analyzing medical death records for an 8-year period, patient safety experts calculated that medical errors were an unrecognized cause of death. These errors were involved in 251,454 fatalities each year in this country. Researchers examined four studies of medical data from 2000 to 2008.

Medical errors exceeded respiratory disease which was designated as the third leading cause of death by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. In 2013, CDC figures indicates that 611,105 people died from heart disease, 584,881 died of cancer and 149,205 died of chronic respiratory disease, according to the CDC. This study instead placed medical errors as the third leading cause. The researchers argued that the CDC's statistical collection does not classify medical errors as a separate cause of death on death certificates. Additionally, statistics are based on medical billing codes which does not flag medical care that had bad results. This underreporting led to insufficient efforts to correct this serious problem.

Most medical errors cannot be blamed on particularly bad medical providers, according to this study. It attributed these deaths to problems in the medical system such as care that was poorly coordinated, unconnected insurance networks, insufficient back-up protections and rampant and unwarranted differences in medical practices that do not have enough accountability.

The study called for streamlining medical care and eliminating differences among providers. This could improve quality of care and lower costs. An attorney can help gather evidence and pursue cases where medical errors were the cause of death or injury. Legal representation can help assure that negligent health care providers are held accountable.

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