A new study published in BMJ medical journal has brought a new level of attention to the perils in the medical world. Johns Hopkins researchers found that medical errors are the third most frequent cause of non-violent death for Americans. The only two other cause of death that beat out medical errors were heart disease and cancer. The medical errors could be anything from a prescription for the wrong pill to a fatal mistake during an operation. Using data from Medicare, they estimate that over a quarter million Americans are killed in this way annually.
The lead author of the study, Dr. Makary, hoped this would bring light to the problem and result in greater care for patients. "I, like many doctors, have been aware that people die from fragmented care, diagnostic errors, preventable complications and the problem is serious," Makary told ABC News. "The concern I had was 'Why is this not a national funding priority...why does it receive a comparable fraction of the funding" for cancer or heart disease?'" He also believes these numbers are lower than reality because of challenges in diagnosing and labeling deaths. Often a person might die due to a failed CPR attempt and will be codified in that way to the CDC but in reality a liver laceration during a medical exam caused the injury that led to the death. The medical industry is the only one to have such a high amount of fatal mistakes but still we allow it to continue to error at unrivaled rates. Dr. David Classen, patient safety expert, points out "If you had this many deaths in aviation industry...you'd shut it down, it's amazing that in all these other industries we never tolerate this kind of death." He is optimistic this study will lead to funding as he is currently working to develop real time, online medical records to prevent reporting errors.
At the Janicek Law Firm we know firsthand just how impactful this problem is in society. We believe medical professionals do not always uphold their duties to their client and it can result in terrible consequences. This statistic is only fatalities, if you consider all medical errors, the damage to society is tremendous. We too hope this study leads to changes in the industry because Americans should be able to feel more confident in the people who are supposed to heal them.
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