Study Claims “Medical Error” Is the #3 Cause of Death in the U.S.

Although Florida legislators have made it more difficult in recent years to bring medical malpractice claims, the truth is that physician error is an often underreported cause of serious injury or death. In fact, a major study recently published in a prominent medical journal offers some sobering statistics about medical error and patient deaths. According to the study’s authors, “medical error” should be classified as the third-leading cause of death in the United States.

More than 250,000 Deaths Every Year Due to Medical Malpractice

The study, authored by Martin A. Makary and Michael Daniel of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and published in The BMJ, estimated that more than 250,000 patient deaths in 2013 were caused by medical error. Only heart disease (611,000) and cancer (585,000) caused more deaths in that same period. The study further noted that medical error claimed almost twice as many victims as lung disease, and nearly eight times as many lives as either car accidents or firearms.

Medical error is not reported as a separate cause of death in official lists prepared by government agencies like the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. That is because, the authors explained, these lists are based on death certificates prepared by medical providers or coroners. And “human and system factors,” such as medical malpractice, are generally not reported as official causes of death.

For example, the study cited the case of a “young woman” who had a “successful transplant operation.” After returning to the hospital with “non-specific complaints,” doctors performed a battery of tests, “some of which were unnecessary” according to the authors. During one of these unnecessary tests, a surgeon accidentally punctured the patient’s liver with a needle. The liver subsequently ruptured and the patient died. Despite the fact the woman clearly died due to medical error, her death certificate “listed the cause of death as cardiovascular.”

Altogether, the authors relied on statistical analysis to calculate a “mean rate of death from medical error of 251,454” for patients admitted to U.S. hospitals in 2013. The authors acknowledged that “the assumptions made in extrapolating study data…may limit the accuracy of our figure,” but this only “highlights the need for systematic measurement of the problem.”

Speak With a Florida Medical Malpractice Lawyer Today

“Human error is inevitable,” according to the authors of the Johns Hopkins study. But even if not all medical error is preventable, that does not mean victims and their families should be denied justice in seeking to hold physicians and hospitals accountable for their negligence. There are many potential sources of medical error—an unreasonable delay in providing treatment, misdiagnosis, surgical mistakes, etc.—and in too many cases, providers are reluctant to take responsibility.

That is why if you or a loved one has been injured due to physician negligence, you should speak with a qualified Clearwater medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible. A medical malpractice attorney can help you in dealing with medical providers—and their insurance companies—to help ensure you receive proper compensation. Contact the Law Office of Paul B. Genet at (727) 538-8865 if you need to speak with an attorney right away.

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