Study shows medical errors to be a leading cause of death

A 2016 study conducted by patient safety researchers indicates that medical errors may be responsible for a higher number of deaths than most people realize.

The research took into account the data from four large reports and because of the results, medical errors moved up to a position of more importance on the list of common causes of death in the U.S.

Endangering patient safety

Hospitals and other health care facilities normally highlight the measures they take to ensure patient safety, but staff members are often discreet about any mistakes that prove to be harmful or that result in a patient's untimely demise. Such reports can be hard to come by. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gathers data about patient deaths by way of billing codes but does not require information about medical errors. These errors have become so commonplace that they have taken third place for cause of death in our country, right behind heart disease and cancer.

Citing how health care is delivered

The study, which appeared in the British Medical Journal, cites the complexity and diversity in the methods that professionals deliver health care that make collecting information on medical errors difficult. The researchers suggest that errors should be more visible to the medical community, so experts can better understand and analyze them, and that hospitals should commence timely, independent investigations when a death due to medical error occurs.

Going to court

Patients may underestimate the risk of medical error. However, from misdiagnosis to surgical mistakes to providing medication to one patient that should have gone to another, medical errors of various kinds may be responsible for as many as 700 deaths a day in the United States, if the 2016 study is accurate. Physicians, nurses and other health care professionals are dedicated to assisting patients, but mistakes still occur, which is why our courts continue to see medical malpractice cases on a consistent basis.

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