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Medical Error Third Leading Cause of Death in U.S.

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Kathleen Becker1 year ago

A new analysis published on Wednesday in the medical journal BMJ concluded that medical errors are now the third leading cause of death in the U.S. 

More Than 250,000 Die from Medical Errors Every Year

The study reports that at least 250,000 people died due to preventable errors in hospitals in 2013  – far exceeding the number of deaths attributed to strokes and Alzheimer’s combined.  According to Discovery News, this new study supports a previous analysis which estimated that 250,000 to 440,000 preventable medical error deaths occur each year.

Currently, the United States uses a system for collecting national health statistics which is recommended by the World Health Organization; however, this system does not keep track of medical errors. This means there is no way of knowing the exact number of deaths caused by botched surgeries, faulty prescriptions, or simple computer glitches.

Additionally, researchers reported that the death toll from medical errors would have been even higher had they chosen to include nursing homes and out-patient care in their analysis. The study’s authors hope their work will help shine light on what they claim is one of the most underreported endemics in global health.

Proposed Remedies for Preventable Medical Errors

Protocols and “safety nets” could help to help track medical errors and work to reduce error-related deaths, according to one study. Further, death certificates asking whether or not a preventable problem stemming from the patients’ medical care contributed to the death could be a way to track and prevent human error.

However, the study’s lead author was quick to point out the asking doctors to self-report their errors would be near impossible unless some form of protection from possible prosecution was ordered.


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