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Medical Errors: Are They Really the Third Leading Cause of Death?

On Behalf of | Jun 11, 2018 | PatientSafety |


Medical errors are about to come back into the public spotlight thanks to a new documentary. To Err is Human takes its name from the infamous 1999 Institute of Medicine report, which found medical mistakes kill an estimated 98,000 US patients each year. As the documentary notes, newer studies estimate this number could be several times higher.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University estimate that medical errors kill as many as 251,000 US patients each year. The study was published in British Medical Journal (also called BMJ) in 2016. A prior study published in the Journal of Patient Safety claims medical mistakes may kill as many as 440,000 patients each year. If these numbers are correct, then it would suggest that medical mistakes are the third leading cause of death in the United States. Only heart disease and cancer kill more people each year.

What Are Common Medical Mistakes?

Medical mistakes can occur in any type of health care setting. You could experience a medical error at the hospital, doctors’ office, local walk-in clinic or a same-day surgery center. Common medical mistakes include but are not limited to:

  1. Diagnostic errors. Of all the possible medical errors you could experience, diagnostic errors are the most common. There are several types of diagnostic errors, such as confusing one diagnosis with another.
  2. Medication errors. You could receive the wrong type, dosage or version of a medication (liquid vs. oral tablet). Medication errors can lead to adverse patient outcomes, including death.
  3. Surgical errors. There are multiple types of errors that occur during surgery. Surgeons could operate on the wrong body parts or patients. In other cases, they may leave surgical equipment behind inside of patients.
  4. Cross contamination. Patients can develop infections when they are treated with contaminated medical devices or equipment.

Was My Medical Mistake Caused by Medical Malpractice?

Medical mistakes are not always caused by medical malpractice. Your situation would need to meet specific criteria before a medical malpractice claim could move forward. The Georgia medical malpractice attorneys at McArthur Law Firm could help you determine whether you would be able to file a claim.