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Medical errors are third leading cause of death in the U.S.

Medical errors are third leading cause of death in the U.S.

October 10, 2016

A study published in the BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal) has found that medical errors are the third most common cause of death in the United States, causing approximately 251,000 deaths every year behind only heart disease and cancer. That breaks down to about 700 preventable deaths per day throughout the country.

Examples of medical errors include, but are not limited to:

  • Operating on the wrong body part
  • Causing accidental injury during surgery
  • Failing to provide proper post-operative care
  • Anesthesia errors
  • Prescription errors
  • Failure to diagnose a condition
  • Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis
  • Incorrectly interpreting imaging and test results
  • Ordering the wrong tests or failing to order tests
  • Hospital-acquired infections due to lack of cleanliness

Currently, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not require reporting of medical errors in the data it collects about deaths through billing codes. One of the co-authors of the study believes that the CDC should update its reporting requirements so that physicians are required to state whether there was any error that led to the death. The CDC only requires that the doctor report a person’s underlying cause of death, even if that condition wasn’t what really killed them. For example, if a patient presented with symptoms of appendicitis but the condition was misdiagnosed, leading to death caused by a delay in needed care, the doctor could list the cause of death as appendicitis or infection rather than the diagnostic error. Thus, medical errors remain vastly underreported. Furthermore, these shortcomings in tracking hinder research and keep the issue largely out of the public eye. Without the attention of the public, improvements to patient safety are not likely to be a priority.

If you have suffered the loss of a loved one due to the actions (or inactions) of a medical professional, contact a Honolulu medical malpractice attorney at Leavitt, Yamane & Soldner to discuss your legal options. You may be entitled to compensation for your losses, including but not limited to compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Our team is prepared to investigate your case to determine whether you have a viable wrongful death claim. Since 1971, we have recovered millions of dollars in compensation for personal injury and medical malpractice victims, and we may be able to help you make a recovery, too.

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