Medical Errors Are Third Leading Cause of Death in the U.S.
A medical error will kill at least 251,454 people this year, roughly 10 percent of U.S. deaths annually, a recent study by surgeon and Johns Hopkins professor Martin Makary found yesterday. The researchers acknowledge that this figure most likely represents an undercount, because they were unable to capture data from deaths that occur in outpatient clinics, nursing homes and other non-hospital settings where health care workers care for fragile patients who need complex care.
“People don’t just die from heart attacks and bacteria, they die from system-wide failings and poorly coordinated care,” says Dr. Makary. “It’s medical care gone awry.”
“Throughout the world, medical error leading to patient death is an under-recognized epidemic,” Makary states in Tuesday’s British Medical Journal. Makary defines medical errors as lapses in judgment, skill or coordination of care; mistaken diagnoses; system failures that lead to patient deaths or the failure to rescue dying patients; and preventable complications of care.
As a medical malpractice attorney, this finding is incredibly distressing, but unfortunately not surprising. For those who have been lucky enough to have never been a victim of a medical error, it can be difficult to see the reason why medical malpractice litigation needs to exist. Taking in the fact that 94% of all doctors will never have a claim filed against them, it becomes even more crucial that a vibrant medical malpractice community exist to hold accountable the small amount that unwittingly compromise patient safety.
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