stethoscope and gavel

Medical Errors Are United States' Third Leading Cause of Death

Doctors, nurses, and hospitals are supposed to make sure they take proper precautions when dealing with patients. This is to ensure their safety and to provide the treatment necessary for the patient to recover. What happens if something goes wrong during the transfer of a patient, in the emergency room, during surgery, or in any other situation? When there is a mistake at the hands of a medical professional, this is what we call a medical error. As bad as it is to sustain an injury or have a condition worse because of a medical error, it’s even worse to know that these events can result in death.

According to a recent study conducted by Martin Makary, a professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States. The results—published in the BMJ—showed that roughly 250,000 people die each year as a result of medical errors. This is more deaths than caused by respiratory disease, Alzheimer’s, strokes, or serious accidents. Makary said that the study included various categories analyzing everything from communication breakdowns during transfers, bad doctors, and more.

In recent years, the topic of medical errors has often been discussed. In 1999, instances of preventable medical errors were called an epidemic by the Institute of Medicine. The latest research analyzed data from four large studies, including those conducted by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the Health and Human Services Department’s Office of the Inspector General. The numbers break down to nearly 700 deaths each day in the United States, and account for roughly 9.5% of the annual deaths in the nation. According to Makary’s study, the only causes of death higher than medical errors are heart disease and cancer.

Even worse, because of the limited amount of data available, it is possible that this number could be higher. The current method of reporting cause of death is use of medical insurance billing codes. Unfortunately, there are no definite ways to report medical error as the cause of death and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not make it a requirement for medical professionals to report error as a cause of death in the billing codes. Makary believes that the CDC must take the necessary measures to improve their reporting requirements in order to collect proper vital statistics regarding cause of death.

Medical errors can occur at any given time during a patient’s visit to the hospital. It can begin in the emergency room based on missed diagnosis, or during transfer when inaccurate information is placed on the patient’s medical record, or during surgery when medical “never events” can occur. These never events include performing surgery on the wrong person, performing surgery on the wrong part of the body, or leaving an object — such as a sponge or surgical tool — inside a patient. These are all ways in which a medical professional can make an error — often referred to as medical negligence or medical malpractice.

If you were harmed due to the negligence of a medical professional, take action today. Contact our Dallas medical malpractice lawyers at Aldous \ Walker to learn more about your options. We can explain if you have a lawsuit, what kind of legal action you can take, and who may be considered liable. It is important to understand your rights if you’ve been injured or if you lost someone you love as a result of medical error. Our team is here to guide you through the entire process and help you reach the favorable resolution you desire.

Call us today to schedule your free consultation.

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