Study: Medical errors may rank among the three top causes of U.S. deaths

New research suggests that medical errors are frequently underreported and represent one of the three top causes of death in the U.S.

Although many medical professionals and healthcare facilities in Eatontown take various steps to prevent medical mistakes, these errors still occur frequently. Accurately assessing the toll of these mistakes is challenging, since many may go undiscovered or unreported. Troublingly, though, new research suggests that harmful medical mistakes occur much more often than previously believed and now represent the third leading cause of death in the U.S.

New fatal error rates estimated

To reach this conclusion, researchers from Johns Hopkins analyzed the findings of four other studies, according to CNN. Using data from those studies, the researchers estimated that upwards of 250,000 deaths occur each year as a result of medical errors. This would make medical mistakes the top cause of death in the U.S., aside from cancer and heart disease. This new estimated death rate greatly exceeds many estimates that were widely cited in the past, including the following:

  • In 1999, a landmark study projected that medical mistakes cause the deaths of up to 98,000 people per year.
  • In 2008, the U.S. Department of Health found that over 180,000 Medicare patients die due to medical errors each year.
  • Other studies estimated that as many as 195,000 deaths occur per year as a result of medical errors.

The Johns Hopkins study suggests that the toll of medical errors may have been seriously underestimated in the past. Troublingly, the figure from the study is also a conservative estimate, as it does not even account for patients who pass away in nursing homes or their own homes.

Overlooked medical errors

A lack of data on medical mistakes and general underreporting may both be factors that contribute to the underestimation of deadly medical errors. NBC News explains that the medical codes used on death certificates do not allow for medical errors to be listed as a cause of death, which can lead to underreporting. Additionally, the current healthcare culture may discourage physicians from disclosing errors, which may impede the tracking and analysis of these mistakes.

Experts have suggested that greater transparency among healthcare providers could lead to a better understanding of medical errors and more effective prevention of such errors in the future. Until such changes are implemented, however, these unnecessary errors may continue to harm many people.

Recourse for fatal errors

People who have lost loved ones as a result of medical mistakes in New Jersey may be able to seek recourse from the responsible physician or healthcare provider. A medical error may qualify as medical negligence if a physician or other responsible professional breached the professional standard of care. If so, family members may be able to recover compensation to address the loss of the victim's income, services and companionship by filing a wrongful death lawsuit.

Problematically, the standard of care is a subjective measure that depends on the patient's condition, the doctor's specialty and many other factors. This can make proving negligence difficult for many plaintiffs. As a result, people who believe a physician has committed medical malpractice may benefit from speaking with an attorney for guidance during the claim process.