Medical mistakes are the third leading cause of death in the US, following heart disease and cancer. More than 250,000 people in the US die every year because of medical errors, according to a study by Johns Hopkins.
Other studies suggest that medical mistake deaths could be as high as 440,000. The discrepancy in figures is attributed to how the numbers are collected. Physicians, funeral directors, coroners, and medical examiners rarely note human error and medical system failure on death certificates. In addition, hospitals and other medical providers are not required to report medical errors to the public. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) uses death certificates to calculate national statistics. The authors of the Johns Hopkins study asked that the CDC review their methodology for collecting death certificate data, but no changes have been made.
Death due to medical error is defined by researchers as one that is caused by inadequately skilled staff, error in judgment or care, a system defect, or a preventable adverse effect. Common sources of error usually involve diagnoses, delay in diagnosis, or incorrect diagnosis. Other types of common medical errors include incidents including computer breakdowns, and administering incorrect doses or types of medications.
The researchers looked at death-rate data for eight consecutive years and determined that 9.5% of all deaths each year in the US stem from medical error. Researchers cite unneeded medical care as a major contributing factor to deaths associated with medical mistakes, stating that 20 percent of all medical procedures may be unnecessary. They also blame the overprescription of medication after procedures and surgery, mainly opioids.
Protecting Yourself Against Medical Mistakes
New tools and systems are being introduced in the medical industry to help make treatment safer. However, errors still impact families every day. These are some ways experts recommend being vigilant about your medical care today:
- Ask questions and take notes. Find out as much information as possible from your health care provider. If they prescribe a new medication or procedure, ask about its benefits, side effects, and other harmful effects. Learn everything you can about the medications you are taking and procedures you are considering. Write down what your doctor tells you so you can use your notes to help you with research later.
- Find an advocate. Ask a family member or friend to attend your appointment with you to help document all of the information from your provider. Consider someone who can understand the information and ask valuable questions.
- Use technology. Keep medical information in a detailed note or app on your phone or computer. Having this information in the palm of your hand could help you have better conversations with your physicians and avoid medical errors. Find secure phone apps to store and manage your medical records.
Unfortunately, we are very familiar with the life-changing effects a medical error can have on a family. If you or a loved one are dealing with hardships as a result of medical negligence, we urge you to contact our team at Panter, Panter & Sampedro. We have more than 30 years of experience fighting to protect families and are here to help if your family is in need. Call us for a free consultation at (305) 662-6178.
Johns Hopkins. (2016, May 3). Study Suggests Medical Errors Now Third Leading Cause of Death in the U.S. Retrieved from:
Journal of Patient Safety. (September 2013) A New, Evidence-based Estimate of Patient Harms Associated with Hospital Care. Retrieved from:
- Nordqvist. (2012, December 22) Surgical Errors Occur More Than 4,000 Times A Year In The U.S. Retrieved from: https://medicalnewstoday.com/articles/254426#1
- Rodziewicz; B. Houseman; J.Hipskind.(2021, January 4) Medical Error Reduction and Prevention. Retrieved from: https://ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499956/