A new study reveals that medical error deaths could count for over 250,000 deaths each year. According to the study, published in the BMJ and authored by a surgeon at Johns Hopkins, this number is far larger than a 1999 study in which the number of medical error deaths was estimated at under 100,000.
“Safety lapses and unintended bungling killed 70 percent more Americans than chronic respiratory disease, currently listed as the third-leading cause of death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Annual deaths from stroke, Alzheimer’s or diabetes don’t even come close to those from medical errors,” wrote an article from the AARP.
Medical error deaths, as reported to the Washington Post, include everything from diagnostic errors to inadequate skill. They also include more systemic issues such as communication breakdowns when patients are handed off from one department to another. However, there are no options for medical errors on death certificates, so it is notoriously difficult to track the exact numbers. In other words, a cardiac patient who dies during treatment as a result of a medical error is still considered to have died from a cardiac issue.
So how can patients better protect themselves from medical errors? The nonprofit Hospital Safety Score has a number of good tips, including bringing a friend or family member along to ask questions and deal with problems, and making sure to ask about any type of medication you are given. Numerous errors are often found during discharge, where an alarming number of institutions don’t properly check prescriptions or ensure that they are the right dosage. In some instances, medication errors after discharge can even be fatal.
If someone you know has been killed due to a medical error, their family may be entitled to compensation under the law. Contact Martin Kane Kuper for a free consultation about your case.