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Medical errors: A major cause of death in U.S.

A study found that medical errors is the third-leading cause of death in the U.S. preceding chronic respiratory conditions.

Every year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention create a list of the most common causes of death in an effort to inform the public and prompt research groups to investigate the details of certain areas. The CDC obtains this information from the 'cause of death' section listed on death certificates. The problem lies in the fact that medical mistakes, human negligence and system errors are not given as an option of a cause of death on these certificates. It is known, however, that diagnostic errors, inadequate skill level, poor judgement and communication breakdowns can cause serious injuries and death.

A study conducted by Johns Hopkins evaluated data complied over an eight-year period and found that more than 250,000 people died in incidents involving medical error. The information was collected from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of the Inspector General, as well as the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Furthermore, these numbers are thought to be underrepresented, as many errors and mistakes go unreported.

Third-leading cause of death

The CDC listed the top three causes of death as heart disease, cancer and chronic respiratory disease from the data collected from birth certificates. Although respiratory disease was named as the third leading cause of death at 150,000 fatalities each year, the number of medical errors surpassed this amount. Since medical error and negligence is not listed as a cause of death by the CDC, the issue does not get the attention from researchers who should be looking into this problem. Officials are not interested in punishing negligent doctors or taking legal action against them. Rather they want to obtain a better understanding of the problem and learn how problems in the system correlate to patient injury and death.

Types of medical mistakes

There are a wide-range of medical errors that affect patients across a multitude of settings. In addition to physician negligence, surgical errors, miscommunication, misdiagnosis and doctor fatigue, there are other issues, such as holes in insurance networks, poor coordination of care and the absence of safety nets in protocol. Any one of these errors can leave a patient with a serious infection, long-term injury or dead.

Obtaining legal representation

If you have been affected by a doctor's negligent actions or an error in the healthcare system, you may want to contact a medical malpractice attorney regarding your legal options. You may be entitled to compensation for any extraordinary medical expenses, as well as the pain and suffering you endured from undergoing additional surgeries or unnecessary procedures. A lawyer may help by looking into the circumstances surrounding the situation and offering answers to your questions.

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