According to a study by Johns Hopkins researchers, if medical error were a disease, it would be the third leading cause of death in the United States. The study, published in the British Medical Journal, researchers looked at millions of hospital admissions, and based on the number of medical errors they found, almost 250,000 deaths per year were caused by medical error.
The study, Medical error—the third leading cause of death in the US, was authored by Martin A. Makary and Michael Daniel, both with Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. According to the authors, medical error is not listed as a cause of death on death certificates. In order to better assess the problem of medical errors, better reporting is needed.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) compiles a yearly list of the most common causes of death in the U.S. The list is created based on death certificates, which list the cause of death as reported by doctors, coroners, or funeral directors. However, the death certificates only allow for limited reporting based on a recognized International Classification of Disease (ICD) code. There is not an ICD code for “medical error.”
According to the CDC's 2015 list of leading causes of death in the U.S., heart disease ranks as number 1, killing almost 615,000 people in 2015. This includes coronary heart disease and heart attacks. Cancer is close behind in second place, with over 590,000 deaths. Lung cancer is responsible for the most cancer deaths in the U.S. The third leading cause of death, according to the CDC report, is chronic lower respiratory diseases, which is responsible for about 147,000 deaths.
Based on these numbers, if medical errors were responsible for the estimated 250,000 deaths per year, it would easily surpass the number of deaths related to chronic lower respiratory diseases, accidents, Alzheimer's, or stroke.
“Measuring the problem is the absolute first step,” said Martin Makary, professor of surgery. “Hospitals are currently investigating deaths where medical error could have been a cause, but they are underresourced. What we need to do is study patterns nationally.”
Some in the medical community have criticized the findings of this study. However, the full extent of how many people die because of preventable medical errors remains unclear. According to the recent study, that number could be as high as 250,000. A 1999 Institute of Medicine report found up to 98,000 people die every year due to medical mistakes. While a 2013 study in the Journal of Patient Study found the number of deaths due to preventable mistakes was about 400,000 people per year.
If you or a loved one has been injured due to a medical error, Attorney Luvell Glanton is fully equipped to handle the complex process of filing a medical malpractice claim. Mr. Glanton will focus on getting you the compensation you deserve, so you can focus on healing and moving forward. Please do not hesitate to contact us today for a free consultation.