Medical Errors Considered Third Largest Cause of Death for Americans

Visiting a health care provider should be a healing experience for Illinois residents. However, a 1999 report published in the Institute of Medicine estimated that error-related fatalities were around 98,000 each year. While these statistics may be alarming to a Chicago wrongful death attorney, more recent estimates create a much bleaker picture.

Over a decade later, the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Health came up with a much higher number. According to the 2010 report, 180,000 Medicare patients died as a result of poor quality hospital care in any given year. Patients with no health care insurance or private insurance were not included in this report, and neither were fatalities that occurred in other types of facilities or under outpatient doctor care.

Negligent care kills thousands annually

A recent article in the Journal of Patient Safety corroborates the possibility that fatalities actually number in the hundreds of thousands. The author of the report, John T. James, is a toxicologist at NASA’s space center in Houston. He conducted an evidence-based study after losing his 19-year-old son to what he believed was hospital negligence.

James developed his estimate using the results of four recent studies. Researchers identified patients from those studies who suffered preventable harm from medical mistakes. The medical records that indicated a patient infection, injury or error were flagged, and then physicians reviewed the results and analyzed the extent of the damages incurred. Approximately 21 percent of the 4,200 cases reviewed indicated significant adverse events, with nearly 1.5 percent of the cases ending in fatality.

These results were used to extrapolate across the number of hospitalizations in 2007. James estimated that 210,000 hospital errors lead to fatalities each year. Although this is alarming, the report points out that the study was unable to identify mistakes involving delayed or missing treatments and diagnoses. Many researchers agree that it is reasonable to believe 440,000 hospital patients are killed due to negligent care annually. As a Chicago wrongful death attorney typically knows, this means medical errors are the third leading cause of fatality in the nation.

Raising awareness to lower errors

Coming up with the exact number of fatalities due to hospital errors may be impossible, but patient safety experts insist that researchers should continue to address the issue. Each study and its corresponding report creates awareness that increases the amount of money allotted to future research. Not only that, but as hospitals are brought under scrutiny, health care professionals will be more inclined to develop policies and procedures that reduce adverse events, creating a safer wellness environment.

When hospital negligence causes an injury, prolonged illness or fatality, responsible parties should be held accountable. A Chicago wrongful death attorney may be able to provide legal representation to bring negligent parties to justice.