stethoscope and gavelWhen you go to the hospital, you expect to be treated with the utmost care. After all, this is where you go when you are hurt, feeling ill, or dealing with any other kind of condition, and the people taking care of you are supposed to be licensed and trained. What happens, however, when this isn’t the case and the trip to the hospital causes more harm than it does good? This is referred to as medical malpractice—or medical errors—and is more common than we would like to think. In fact, recent studies have shown that medical errors claim more lives than accidents, respiratory disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes.

The study, published in BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal), suggests that medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States. The research was analyzed using some of the major studies conducted since 1999, coming to an estimated 251,000 deaths each year as a result of medical errors. One of the studies conducted in 2008 even had as high a number as 400,000. The only two causes of death higher are cancer and heart disease. According to this study, medical errors cause 100,000 more deaths than chronic lower respiratory diseases.

Martin Makary, the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine professor of surgery, led the research and claimed that the data analyzed includes various factors such as doctor error, communication breakdowns, and other systemic problems. The study comes after much debate over the past 20 years regarding medical errors. In 1999, preventable medical errors were labeled as an epidemic by the Institute of Medicine (IOM)[1]. This has led to many conversations regarding what measures can be taken to help prevent medical errors and how to hold the responsible party accountable.

One issue, according to Makary, is the way in which causes of death are currently reported. Currently, there are no requirements from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention making it necessary for medical errors to be reported through the billing codes. These insurance billing codes are used to show cause of death, but there’s not enough to report an error for the data collected. Makary believes that the CDC should be taking steps to make vital changes regarding how the reporting, making preventable errors leading a death an option and increasing accountability on the negligent doctor or nurse.

The estimation of 251,000 deaths is equivalent to roughly 700 deaths each day across the nation. This is about 9.5% of all annual deaths. Unfortunately, this is something that has been going on for some time now. According to Kenneth Sands, who was not involved in the study but directs the healthcare quality at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, since the IOM report came out in 1999, there has been very little change regarding medical errors and the ways they are reported[2]. The only improvement has come in terms of hospital-acquired infections. This is an alarming issue that needs to be addressed.

At The Simon Law Firm, P.C., our St. Louis medical malpractice attorneys are dedicated to making sure medical professionals are held accountable when their errors result in serious harm to a patient. Some of these medical errors can include surgical mistakes, emergency department errors, medication errors, and more. Before you move forward, let us explain your rights to you and work to help protect them. Call us today and discuss your potential claim in a free consultation. We are ready to stand by your side every step of the way, taking the necessary precautions in our preparation and working to help you recover maximum compensation.