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Medical errors are the third-leading cause of death, says study

A recent study says that medical errors are the third-leading cause of death in the United States.

A recent study says that if medical errors were included in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) official list of leading causes of death then they would come in third place, according to NPR. The study shines a light on a problem that has been well known about in the health care community, but which remains a largely underappreciated problem by the public at large. The researchers of the study say that until medical errors are reported in the CDC’s official list, bringing attention and resources to the problem will remain a challenge.

Tracking medical errors

Back in 1999, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a groundbreaking report that claimed that medical errors caused as many as 98,000 deaths per year. That report was fundamental to drawing attention to the problem of medical errors. However, as the Washington Post reports, the IOM study was limited since it was based on just one study.

To address those limitations, researchers from John Hopkins University analyzed four different studies with data ranging from 2000 to 2008 in order to come up with a more accurate figure of deaths caused by medical errors. The John Hopkins study concluded that the IOM report severely underestimated the true scope of the medical error problem and instead put the number of people killed every year by medical mistakes at 251,000. If that figure is true, it would rank medical errors behind just heart disease and cancer as the third-leading cause of death in the United States.

Still an underreported problem

The problem, however, is that the CDC does not include medical errors on its list of leading causes of death. The absence of medical errors from the list, the study’s authors contend, is why medical errors remain such a prevalent problem after nearly two decades since the IOM report first came out. Issues like heart disease, cancer, and respiratory disease, all of which are on the CDC’s list, get plenty of funding and research devoted to them because lawmakers, the public, and officials understand their importance since they are high on the CDC list.

The fact that medical errors remain underreported means that such errors are allowed to remain a taboo subject in the healthcare industry. Doctors and medical staff are reluctant to talk about when their mistakes may have led to a patient’s death, but without talking about the problem then changing the way healthcare facilities operate and improving patient care will remain an elusive goal.

Medical malpractice law

Patients at a healthcare facilities want to expect that they will receive the best care and treatment possible. However, as the above article shows, medical errors are a very real possibility and lead to hundreds of deaths every day. Anybody who may have been hurt by a possible medical error should contact a medical malpractice attorney immediately. Medical malpractice cases are notoriously complex, which is why an attorney experienced in handling such cases should be relied upon to help injured patients pursue whatever compensation they may be entitled to.