When you think of the leading causes of death in the United States, you may think of cancer, heart disease, or accidents of various sorts. While it is true that all three are leading causes of death, avoidable medical errors probably do not make your list. However, a recent study highlighted just how serious these errors are.
Details of the study
Since 1999, medical errors as a leading cause of death have been on the radar of medical researchers. During this time, the Institute of Medicine released its “To Err Is Human” report, which revealed that up to 98,000 people each year die because of medical malpractice such as misdiagnoses or medical or surgical errors. Although it was initially met with skepticism in the medical community, as the number of deaths was though to be inflated, the report is now widely accepted.
In 2010, this report was followed up with a study from the Office of Inspector General for Health and Human Services. This study found that among Medicare patients alone, medical, surgical and hospital errors were responsible for 180,000 patient deaths, which was almost twice the amount found in the earlier study.
Recently, a study from the current issue of the Journal of Patient Safety found that the number of patients killed by medical errors is even higher than the two prior studies suggest. This study was more thorough than the earlier two, as it involved an examination of medical records, death certificates and other patient data. The study concluded that between 210,000 and 440,000 patients each year experience some kind of preventable medical error that causes their death. This is about one-sixth of the number of people who die in the United States each year.
Why are so many errors happening?
The reasons behind the high number of potentially deadly medical errors are varied and complicated. However, a recent report from The New England Journal of Medicine found that a culture of silence in the medical community is one leading reason. The report surveyed physicians and found that more than half said that in the past year, they discovered a medical error made be a colleague.
Once a colleague’s medical error is discovered, many physicians do not feel the need to tell the patient or bring the error to the attention of another physician. As a result, the patient is often unaware of the mistake and the responsible physician goes unpunished.
Consult an attorney
It is an unfortunate fact that physicians that commit medical errors go unchallenged, unnoticed and unpunished until a medical malpractice lawsuit is filed. If you or a loved one has suffered as a result of a medical mistake such as a medical error, a misdiagnosis or another form of negligence, contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney. An attorney can fully advise you of your right to compensation under the law.