Researchers at Johns Hopkins University Medical School have found that, of the 2,597,000 deaths that occurred in the United States in 2013, an astounding 251,000 were attributed to medical errors. That accounted for 9.7% of all deaths and is the third-leading cause of death. The findings were reported by The British Medical Journal .
The article cited data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control which placed medical errors behind heart disease (611,000) and cancer (575,000) and ahead of COPD (149,000), and suicide (41,000), followed by motor vehicles and firearms (34,000 each). The list of common causes of death are determined using death certificates filled out by physicians, funeral directors, medical examiners and coroners. However, the death certificates rely on assigning an International Classification of Disease (ICD) code to the cause of death. This led the researchers to believe that the number of deaths arising from medical errors are grossly underestimated.
The researchers defined medical error as “an unintended act (either of omission of commission) or one that does not achieve its intended outcome, the failure of a planned action to be completed as intended (an error of execution), the use of a wrong plan to achieve an aim (an error of planning) or a deviation from the process of care that may or may not cause harm to the patient.” They also wrote that, while a medical error may not be consequential, “an error can end the life of someone with a long life expectancy or accelerate an imminent death.”
They further acknowledge that human error is unavoidable, but it can be reduced by putting more and better safety protocols in place. These include:
- Making errors more visible when they occur so their effects can be intercepted
- Having remedies at hand to rescue patients
- Making errors less frequent by following principles that take human limitations into account
If you have been injured or had a loved one pass away due to a doctor or hospital’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation. Seeking the guidance of an experienced attorney is vital in protecting your rights. Contact Andrew Barovick for the representation you deserve. Call (914) 761-1133.