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Study estimates medical mistakes are a leading cause of mortality

Researchers estimate that medical mistakes are a leading cause of death, contributing to more fatalities each year than respiratory disease.

People in Florida and elsewhere generally understand that some conditions may progress beyond treatment and that there are some ailments for which there is not a cure. However, few expect that they might suffer worsened conditions or death at the hands of their health care providers. Unfortunately, medical mistakes are an all too common occurrence with potentially serious consequences. In fact, based on the findings of a study recently published in BMJ, such errors account for more deaths each year than respiratory disease, the third leading cause of death on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s list.

What factors contribute to medical mistakes?

While health care professionals are required to provide a certain standard of care, there are numerous factors that may contribute to causing medical errors. These include the following:

  • Communication problems
  • Poor information flow
  • Failing to follow the appropriate policies, protocols or guidelines
  • Flawed or otherwise deficient procedures and policies

Further, inadequate staffing may result in overworked doctors and nurses, potentially putting them in situations where they may be more likely to make a mistake. Regardless of the cause, doctor errors may result in patients suffering worsened medical conditions, additional ailments or death.

Analyzing the medical death rate in the U.S.

The system currently used by the CDC for recording and tabulating mortality causes in the U.S. does not capture medical errors or their contributing factors. To get a better picture of the medical death rate, patient safety experts from Johns Hopkins Medicine conducted an analysis of four prior studies that examined medical death rate data between 2000 and 2008. The researchers then extrapolated on the hospital admission rates for 2013 in order to estimate how many deaths annually are the result of medical mistakes.

Medical errors are a leading cause of death

Through their analysis and calculations, the researchers estimated that medical errors caused 251,454 deaths. The CDC lists heart disease, cancer and respiratory disease as the leading causes of mortality in the U.S., causing 614,348; 591,699; and 147,101 deaths respectively in 2014. Based on their findings, the researchers suggest medical mistakes should be added to the CDC’s list as the third leading cause of death. Shortcomings in the criteria for classifying causes of death on death certificates has resulted in little attention or funding being directed toward the problem of preventing doctor error-related fatalities.

Working with a lawyer

When medical care goes wrong for patients in Florida and elsewhere, the effects may be devastating for the families they leave behind. Facing unexpected and undue expenses, such as additional medical bills and funerary costs, people who lose loved ones to medical mistakes may also be affected by the sudden, permanent loss of an income. In some situations, however, the health care provider who committed the error or the medical facility may be held liable for the resulting damages. Therefore, those who have experienced situations such as this may benefit from discussing their circumstances and options with a legal representative.