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Alabama Medical Errors: A Leading Cause of Death

Posted on May 20, 2016

A recent study, by two physicians, concluded that somewhere between 200,000 and 400,000 persons die every year in the U.S. from preventable medical errors. Drs. Martin Makary and Michael Daniel, of Johns Hopkins University Medical School, stated that “We have not as a country recognized the endemic problem of people dying from the care that receive rather than the illness or injury for which they seek care”. Cancer and heart disease were in the usual spots at 1 and 2.

Previously, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) was number 3 with 149,000 deaths a year. If the Makary/Daniel study is correct, medical errors is the new number 3. Makary also pointed to a 1999 study by the Institute of Medicine that estimated the number of medical errors causing death was around 98,000 a year. The problem with estimating the true number of medical errors deaths, according to Makary, is that physicians will not disclose the error on the death certificate, so the family will not be aware of what happened. Moreover, diagnostic codes used in the billing process do not recognize “negligence” or “hospital malpractice” such that death certificate coding will not reflect alleged medical errors.

Medical errors can include infections caught in the hospital, surgical mistakes or just a lack of following up by the physician. Ashish Ja, a professor at Harvard, stated that, with regard to medical mistakes, “I see it almost everyday in the hospital…”

Makary remarked that the goal is not blame the nurses or doctors but to expose the errors so hospitals can potentially prevent them in the future.

Source: British Medical Journal