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Report: Medical errors third leading cause of death in America

Medical mistakes are a serious public health concern. It can be difficult to measure the exact number of medical errors made each year because the patient may or may not realize that their condition was worsened because of misdiagnosis, medication errors, surgical errors, infections or other ailments caused by inadequate care. Healthcare providers may also be hesitant to report their own mistakes.

Heart disease, cancer, medical errors: these are the top three causes of death in America if the study regarding medical mistakes that was recently published in Journal of Patient Safety is correct. It reports that anywhere from 210,000 and 440,000 patients die each year from an adverse event that occurs while hospitalized. Adverse event is the terminology used in the medical community for preventable harm that patients suffer. Some experts dispute these estimates and claim that the numbers are much too high. They feel that the previous estimate of 98,000 from a study conducted in 1999 is much closer to the actual number of patients that die each year from medical errors. Yet, three different reputable researchers reviewed the data and say that the research methods are reliable and the findings are sound.

Regardless of whether 98,000 or 440,000 patients die from medical mistakes, the volume of mistakes should be considered a crisis. Those who have believe that they have suffered organ damage, a serious injury or lost a loved one as a result of a medical error should come forward. They may be entitled to compensation for their pain, suffering and medical expenses. Filing a lawsuit in civil court also brings attention to the national crisis and forces healthcare providers to identify ways to improve patient safety. 

Source: KCUR.org, “How Many Die From Medical Mistakes In U.S. Hospitals?” Editor, Sep. 24. 2013.

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