Medical Errors Believed to be Third-Leading Cause of Death in US
The idea that medical malpractice and doctor errors should be a serious source of concern to patients is not new. According to the conclusions of a study recently published by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, however, medical errors deserve even more attention than they have so far received. Based on a review of patient files and case studies, these researchers believe that medical errors are third only to heart disease and cancer as the leading causes of death in the US. According to the recently-published study, medical errors kill approximately 250,000 patients each year.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides statistics on causes of death, but it does not report on the rates at which medical errors were responsible for a death. This is due in large part to the choices available to indicate the cause of death on a death certificate. Currently, the doctor, funeral home worker, nurse, or coroner completing a death certificate can only choose a code among those published by the International Classification of Disease, none of which indicates death caused by a medical error. Since the CDC aggregates its statistics on fatality rates from death certificates, deaths from medical errors are not reported. One example cited in the study is that of a woman who had undergone surgery weeks earlier, but returned to the hospital experiencing pain. The woman was subjected to a test which resulted in a scalpel making unintended contact with her liver, causing her, unbeknownst to the doctor, to suffer from internal bleeding. The hemorrhage caused the woman to enter cardiac arrest several days later, and while it was the doctor’s error which caused her heart to fail, her cause of death was indicated as “cardiovascular.”
The Johns Hopkins researchers assert that perpetuating a system that allows the true rate of death caused by medical error to be hidden prevents the public from understanding the scale of the problem. Without understanding how substantial the issue is, the public doesn’t demand necessary systemic changes. Currently, most medical errors are addressed only by internal hospital review boards and are never made public outside of medical malpractice lawsuits. Listing “medical error” among causes of death on death certificates would offer the public a chance to learn of and address this serious issue.
If you or a loved one has been the victim of a medical error or other form of medical malpractice in Alabama, seek the compensation to which you’re entitled for your additional medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages by contacting Mobile medical malpractice attorney J. Allan Brown for a free consultation on your case, at 251-473-6691.