Preventable Medical Mistakes are the Third Leading Cause of Death

Posted On: July 24, 2014 under

Hospital ErrorsIn 1999, the landmark study was published by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), To Err is Human, which estimated that approximately 98,000 people die each year due to preventable medical errors. At the time, many argued the number was too high. If accurate, it would have placed medical errors as the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. As it turns out, the number was too low!
A new study released by a prestigious medical journal shows the number of deaths due to negligent medical care is larger—more than four times larger. According to the Journal of Patient Safety, as many as 440,000 deaths are caused each year by medical errors. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists chronic lower respiratory disease as the third leading cause of death, when in fact it’s medical malpractice.

  • Heart disease: 597,689
  • Cancer: 574,743
  • Medical mistakes: 440,000
  • Lung diseases: 138,080
  • Stroke: 129,476
  • Accidents: 120,859
  • Alzheimer’s disease: 83,494
  • Diabetes: 69,071
  • Kidney diseases: 50,476
  • Pneumonia and Influenza: 50,097

In April 2013, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reported that surgical mistakes financially benefit a hospital because patients will typically require additional care and stay longer. The report concluded that a hospital’s profit margin increases by 190 percent when a surgical error is made on a Medicare patient compared to a Medicare patient with no complications. If a surgical mistake is made on a patient with private insurance, a hospital’s profit increases by 330 percent.
It’s clear that the standard of care patients receive is grossly inadequate.

On July 17, the hearing entitled “More Than 1,000 Preventable Deaths a Day Is Too Many: The Need to Improve Patient Safety,” was conducted by the US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging.

“Despite all the focus on patient safety, it seems we have not made much progress at all,” Dr. Ashish Jha, MD, professor of Health Policy at the Harvard School of Public Health, testified at the Senate hearing. “The fundamental problem is that most healthcare organizations don’t track the safety of their care.”

Currently, hospitals and providers are encouraged to report “hospital-acquired conditions.” To make hospitals more accountable, many of the national patient safety experts recommend the reporting of medical outcomes become mandatory, rather than suggested. They also feel the role of the CDC should include receiving, monitoring and transparently reporting hospital incident rates should.

Each day, more than 1,200 lives are lost prematurely from mishaps that medical professionals could have prevented. Rather than focus on legislation preventing or reducing a patient’s right to sue for medical negligence, let’s focus on making hospitals and medical providers more accountable for their mistakes.

If you have been injured from preventable medical mistakes, consult a medical malpractice attorney today to get the compensation you deserve.