We often go to hospitals and other medical providers when we are at our most vulnerable. We experience health problems and depend on our treating medical professionals to help us get better. Unfortunately, health problems are all too often either exacerbated or new health problems result from seeking medical treatment. A study by Johns Hopkins revealed that over 250,000 people in the United States die each year due to hospital errors. This number puts hospital error as the third leading cause of death on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) official list. Heart disease and cancer still top the list as each resulted in around 600,000 deaths in 2014 alone.
While the Johns Hopkins study asserts that over 250,000 people die annually from hospital errors, other studies put this number at upwards of 450,000. This is a major discrepancy and it is believed that it is one caused, in large part, due to the way the causes of deaths are reported. Physicians, medical examiners, and coroners do not usually report a human error as a cause of death. Usually, the reason a person was seeking medical treatment is listed as the cause of death, not an error in medical treatment. The authors of the Johns Hopkins study advocate that the CDC should change the way death certificate data is collected so that a more accurate review of causes of death can be made.
Hospital Errors Are One of the Most Common Causes of Death in the U.S.
Dr. Makary, one of the doctors who authored the Johns Hopkins study, defines death due to medical error as a death resulting from inadequately skilled staff, a lapse in judgment or care, system defects or a preventable adverse effect of a lapse in care. Medical mistakes that may prove fatal include:
- Unrecognized surgical complications
- Mix-ups in doses
- Mix-ups in medication types
- Computer breakdowns
Now that the magnitude of the hospital error problem in the U.S. is starting to come to light, people are trying to address the situation by advocating for things like heightened medication safety and better training for pharmacy technicians. In the meantime, patients can take steps to protect themselves as best as possible.
Empowered patients may not be completely immune from hospital errors, but it can significantly reduce risks. Be vigilant in seeking answers from your medical providers. Do things like:
- Ask questions about the side effects, benefits of treatment, and potential disadvantages of treatment.
- Seek out a second opinion if you are unsure of your doctor’s approach to a situation.
- Bring a friend or family member to your appointments with you. Being a patient and processing medical information can be an overwhelming experience. Having another set of ears can not only help verify the information being given to you, but he or she may ask questions that may have slipped past you at the moment.
Dedicated Malpractice Attorney
If you have been harmed due to a lapse in medical care, the dedicated medical malpractice attorneys at Cooper, Schall & Levy are here to advocate for you and your right to full and fair compensation. Contact us today.