New Study Suggests Medical Errors Are The Third Leading Cause Of Death In The United States With Heart Disease and Cancer The Top Two Leading Causes
Medical Malpractice Lawsuit News: A new study by patient safety researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine suggests that medical error is the third most common cause of death in the United States. After analyzing four large studies, researchers estimated that more than 251,000 deaths occur each year due to medical error, according to the report published May 3, 2016 in the British Medical Journal.
Researchers Martin Makary and Michael Daniel compared their estimate to the annual list of common causes of death compiled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Heart disease with 611,000 deaths and cancer with 585,000 deaths were the top two causes of death in the United States in 2013, followed by medical error, according to the study.
Currently, an International Classification of Disease code is assigned to a cause of death, but causes of death not associated with the code, including human error or system factors, are not captured, the study says. Communication breakdowns, diagnostic errors, poor judgment, and inadequate skill can directly result in patient harm and death, but are not recorded.
Although medical errors are unintended, “the role of error can be complex,” Makary and Daniel wrote in their BMJ article. A case history included in the study told of a young woman recovering well after a successful transplant operation who was readmitted into the hospital for “non-specific complaints.” The woman underwent extensive tests, some of which were unnecessary, including a pericardiocentesis, in which a needle and catheter remove fluid from the sac around the heart. The patient was discharged but returned to the hospital days later due to intra-abdominal hemorrhage and cardiopulmonary arrest. An autopsy showed that the needle inserted during the pericardiocentesis grazed the liver and caused a pseudoaneurysm that resulted in subsequent rupture and death. The death certificate listed cause of death as cardiovascular.
Since death certificates do not acknowledge medical errors, Makary and Daniel are calling for better reporting to “help understand the scale of the problem and how to tackle it.” The researchers believe strategies to reduce death from medical care should include three steps:
- Making errors more visible when they occur so their effects can be intecepted
- Having remedies at hand to rescue patients
- Making errors less frequent by following principles that take human limitations into account
The researchers also suggested that instead of only requiring cause of death, an extra field could be placed on death certificates asking whether a “preventable complication stemming from a patient’s medical care contributed to the death.”
Another strategy the study noted would be for hospitals to “carry out a rapid and efficient independent investigation into deaths to determine the potential contribution of error.”
If your loved one has died due to suspected medical error, you may be entitled to compensation for your loss. You do not have to suffer in silence after your loss. Contact the legal experts at Wright & Schulte for a free consultation to discuss your eligibility to file a legal claim.
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