Medical errors leading cause of death

When deaths related to diagnostic errors, errors of omission and the failure to follow guidelines are included in the data, the number exceeds 400,000 preventable hospital deaths each year.

When deaths related to diagnostic errors, errors of omission and the failure to follow guidelines are included in the data, the number exceeds 400,000 preventable hospital deaths each year.

by Mary Budinger — 

Medical errors leading to patient death occur more often than previously thought, perhaps as many as 400,000 deaths a year, according to a new study published in the Journal of Patient Safety.

The study revealed that 210,000 Americans are killed by preventable hospital errors each year. When deaths related to diagnostic errors, errors of omission and the failure to follow guidelines are included in the data, the number exceeds 400,000 preventable hospital deaths each year.

This staggering number is almost five times greater than 1999 estimates published by the Institute of Medicine (IOM). Thus, it makes medical errors the third-leading cause of death in the United States, right after heart disease and cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics.

“To put these numbers into even further perspective, medical mistakes in American hospitals kill four jumbo jets’ worth of people each week,” clarified Dr. Joseph Mercola.

The study concluded that the epidemic of patient harm in hospitals must be taken more seriously if it is to be curtailed. Study author John T. James, Ph.D., oversees the advocacy group Patient Safety America. He wrote:

“There was much debate after the IOM report about the accuracy of its estimates. In a sense, it does not matter whether the deaths of 100,000, 200,000 or 400,000 Americans each year are associated with PAEs [preventable adverse events] in hospitals. Any of the estimates demands assertive action on the part of providers, legislators and people who will one day become patients. Yet, the action and progress on patient safety is frustratingly slow; however, one must hope that the present evidence-based estimate of 400,000+ deaths per year will foster 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.”

Once you are hospitalized, you are immediately at risk for medical errors. One of the best safeguards is to have a personal advocate present to ask questions and take notes. The book Hospitals and Health by Dr. Abram Hoffer, Dr. Andrew Saul and Dr. Steve Hickey is a good place to start.

Source:  James, J.T., A new, evidence-based estimate of patient harms associated with hospital care. Journal of Patient Safety. September 2013: 9(3); 122-128.

 

Mary Budinger is an Emmy award-winning journalist who writes about integrative medicine.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 32, Number 6, December 2013/January 2014.

 

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