Medical malpractice is the third leading cause of death in U.S.

The statement is a shock to our national pride, but according to studies, it's true: medical negligence and preventable error is the third leading cause of death in the United States. It trails only cancer and heart disease.

According to a study published last year in the Journal of Patient Safety, medical negligence kills at least 210,000 Americans per year. That's the minimum number of fatalities by preventable harm in hospitals. At the other end of the spectrum, researchers said, up to 400,000 patients might be killed annually by medical malpractice.

Researchers found that preventable "serious harm" is done to hospital patients with incredible frequency: 10 to 20 times as often as "lethal harm." That means at least 2.1 million patients suffer serious, preventable harm each year in U.S. hospitals, but that the number of victims could be as high as 8 million.

While we will likely never know the exact numbers of people harmed and killed by misdiagnosis, medication errors, birth injuries, wrong-site surgeries and other mistakes by doctors and nurses, we are fortunate that detailed analyses give us a glimpse of the scope of the problem.

Some of the reasons cited in the study for health care provider failures: hospital staffing issues; bottom-line-focused hospitals; ongoing difficulties among hospital personnel regarding shift changes; and too-slow implementation of electronic medical data-sharing technology.

In their conclusions, the researchers included their argument that whether one takes their low estimate as valid or their low estimate, the results should be the same: "an outcry for overdue changes and increased vigilance in medical care to address the problem of harm to patients who come to a hospital seeking only to be healed."


Those harmed by Joplin health care provider negligence should speak as soon as possible with a medical malpractice attorney.

Source: Journal of Patient Safety, "A New, Evidence-based Estimate of Patient Harms Associated with Hospital Care," accessed Oct. 8, 2014



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