Are Medical Mistakes a Leading Cause of Death in the US?
Many of us already know that heart disease and cancer are leading causes of death in the US. You may not know that medical mistakes also kill hundreds of thousands of people in the US each year. Depending on who you ask, medical mistakes could be responsible for anywhere from 250,000 to 440,000 deaths annually.
According to a study published in the Journal of Patient Safety, 440,000 people die in the US each year from preventable medical mistakes. A study published in British Medical Journal (also called BMJ) put this number at roughly 252,000 per year. By comparison, Centers for Disease Control (CDC) statistics show that heart disease and cancer are responsible for 610,000 and 590,000 deaths respectively.
Why are so many people in our country dying while receiving health care? Unfortunately, the answer is never simple and varies substantially with each case. However, there are common errors that can be divided into specific groups.
- Diagnostic errors: Research has shown that diagnostic errors are responsible for more preventable deaths than any other type of medical mistake. Johns Hopkins University estimates that 80,000 to 160,000 patients die or suffer significant injuries each year due to diagnostic errors. You may never receive a correct diagnosis if you are affected by this mistake. In other cases, you may receive an incorrect diagnosis followed by a correct one at a later date. Your doctor could also fail to diagnose a second health condition caused by the first one.
- Medication mistakes: There are cases where patients are given the wrong medications. They may also be given the wrong dosages. Perhaps they are given two medications that should never be taken together. All of these medication mistakes could result in permanent injury or death. Medication mistakes can occur in any type of health care setting.
- Never events: The word “never event” is an umbrella term used to describe a specific group of mistakes that should never occur. This term could refer to specific types of surgery mistakes, such as performing a surgical operation on the wrong part of the body.
- Infections/poor sanitation: If your doctor does not follow basic handwashing and sanitation procedures, they could be putting you and others at risk of developing an infection. The same could be said if they failed to properly sanitize equipment before an operation.
When are Medical Mistakes Considered Medical Malpractice?
Medical mistakes have to meet certain criteria to be considered medical malpractice. An experienced medical malpractice attorney can help you make this determination if you or a loved one were harmed by a health care provider. Our law firm could review the details of your case at no cost to help you determine whether medical malpractice occurred. If we determined that malpractice did occur, we could begin laying the groundwork to pursue damages against the doctor, hospital, health facility or other parties.
Walsh Woodard, LLC has a proven record of success helping victims of medical malpractice and their families.