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Medical Errors Are the Third Leading Cause of Death in the U.S.

Published: Jul 21, 2017 in Medical Malpractice

In 2016, researchers announced a startling discovery. Martin Makary and Michael Daniel from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine determined medical errors are now the third leading cause of death in the nation. They calculated that 251,000 lives are lost each year because of medical errors in hospitals and other healthcare facilities.

This finding not only demonstrates the extreme impact of medical negligence on patients but also on their families. For every life lost due to a preventable medical error, numerous family members are impacted, suffering significant emotional and financial injuries. If you believe your spouse, parent, or child passed away because of a hospital, medical facility, or physician error, contact our medical malpractice lawyers of Belt, Bruner, & Barnett P.C. as soon as possible at (205) 933-1500.

Medical Errors May Contribute to Nearly 700 Deaths Daily

Makary, a professor at Johns Hopkins, and Daniel, a research fellow, conducted a comprehensive analysis of four large studies that looked into medical errors. These studies included ones performed by the Health and Human Services Department’s Office of the Inspector General and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Their finding that 251,454 people die each year due to mistakes equals nearly 700 deaths every day. It shows individuals are passing away from substandard and negligent care at an alarming rate. In fact, this number of fatalities is about 9.5 percent of all annual deaths in the U.S., according to The Washington Post.

Main Causes of Death in the US

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., resulting in more than 633,800 each year. It is followed by cancer, which causes more than 595,900 deaths annually. Respiratory diseases would be the third leading cause of death with more than 155,000 fatalities, except it is really surpassed by medical errors, which cause more than 251,000 deaths each year. The next most common causes of death in the U.S. are accidents, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, flu and pneumonia, kidney disease, and suicide.

Previous Study Showed a Larger Problem

While Makary and Daniel’s study garnered considerable attention, it was not the first study to point out the considerable size of the problem. A paper published in the Journal of Patient Safety in 2013 by John James, PhD, reported much the same information. Yet James’ calculations, based on the same studies used by Makary and Daniel, determined nearly 440,000 lives are lost every year because of medical errors.

What does this difference in figures mean? That determining the fatality rate due to medical errors is incredibly difficult. However, what all of the researchers agree upon is that their calculations are probably underestimates of the problem. All of the researchers understand their ability to calculate medical-error-related deaths is negatively affected by a lack of information. Not only are hospitals not consistent in investigating patient deaths, they also are not consistent in recording crucial information or making it public. With a greater amount of consistency and transparency, it would be possible for researchers to more accurately determine how often medical errors result in fatalities.

What Does This Mean for You?

These studies and others point to a drastic problem within the U.S. healthcare system. Hundreds of patients are dying every day not from an injury or disease, but instead from the treatment, they receive at the hands of trusted doctors and nurses. If your loved one passed away in the hospital or shortly after being released, you have the right to look into the cause of death and ask questions.

Contact Our Medical Malpractice Lawyers for Help

If you believe your loved one passed away because of a medical error, contact us at Belt, Bruner, & Barnett P.C. right away. Medical malpractice is a common problem, yet it can be difficult to discover and prove. We are here to help you find out what happened to your spouse, parent, or child. We will investigate the situation, gather evidence of malpractice, and represent you in a medical malpractice claim.

Our law firm represents clients all throughout the state of Alabama with lawyers located at any of our four, office locations. To find out more about how we can best represent you, learn how our Montgomery medical malpractice lawyers, Mobile medical malpractice lawyers, Huntsville medical malpractice lawyers, and Birmingham medical malpractice lawyers can help you.