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How Many People Are Killed by Medical Malpractice Each Year?

Physician errors and medical malpractice claim the lives of hundreds of thousands of people per year. Medical errors are a leading cause of death in the United States. When physicians or other members of the medical team negligently treat patients, survivors can pursue compensation for their losses.

Medical Errors are the Third-Leading Cause of Death

In 2016, researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine determined that medical errors were the third-leading cause of death in the United States. The rate of death caused by medical mistakes is higher than heart disease, cancer, and other causes of death. 

However, the true scope of the problem may be even greater. That’s because of lax requirements for recording medical errors as a cause of death on death certificates. While official statistics show that approximately 250,000 people die each year as the result of a medical error, the true number may be significantly higher. Some estimates place the true number at close to 400,000. That equates to more than 10% of all deaths in the US per year. 

While significant money is invested in searching for cures and developing new treatments, precious little is invested in researching and recording medical errors and negligent behaviors. As a result, patients have little knowledge of a physician’s true skill or propensity for causing wrongful deaths. This puts them at a significant disadvantage when deciding which doctor to turn to when they need life-saving treatment.   

Common Medical Errors

There are numerous causes of preventable death in hospitals, physician’s offices, outpatient clinics, surgical centers, etc. These include misdiagnosis of serious illness such as cancer or heart disease which can delay treatment and impair patient outcomes. Failure to adhere to sterilization protocols and procedures can result in uncontrolled infection or acquisition of MRSA that can result in death. Surgical errors such as wrong-site surgery or wrong-patient surgery can lead to organ failure. Medication errors can result in allergic reactions, overdose, or lead to fatal drug interactions. 

In fact, many wrongful deaths are the result of “never events.” These are events that occur because physicians, anesthesiologists, surgeons, nurses, and others deliberately choose not to adhere to established safety protocols. These negligent actions are entirely preventable and when they occur the individual, the hospital, and others can be held liable for the wrongful deaths that occur.