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New report claims medical errors are the third-leading cause of death in the United States

On Behalf of | May 4, 2016 | Medical Malpractice

A new study authored by two Johns Hopkins doctors and published by the BMJ (British Medical Journal) states that medical errors are killing far more Americans than originally believed. This study, titled Medical error – the third leading cause of death in the U.S., estimates that medical errors kill more than a quarter-million Americans every year.

This number of deaths is far higher than a 1999 study by the Institute of Medicine that estimated between 44,000 and 98,000 people died each year due to medical errors. If true, medical errors would rank behind only heart disease and cancer as causes of death in the United States.

Many times, inaccurate data may hide the real cause of death

The authors of the study, Dr. Martin Makary and Dr. Michael Daniel, stated that the main reason why medical errors are undercounted is because death certificates do not list human error as a cause of death. This is because causes of death have to relate to an insurance billing code. Currently, insurance billing codes do not list medical errors as a cause of death.

As a result, many deaths caused by medical errors are not counted as such. For instance, if a surgical error created complications which led to a person’s heart failing, the cause of death would be listed as heart failure, and not the surgical error that led to the heart failure.

Dr. Makary and Dr. Daniel suggested that there should be a place to list medical error as the cause of death. They further suggested that investments in technology could prevent many medical errors and also properly classify causes of death.

While not every medical error is necessarily malpractice, in many cases, doctors and other medical professionals do not live up to professional standards and injure or kill others as a result. If you or someone you love has been the victim of medical malpractice, it is vital to work closely with an experienced medical malpractice attorney. For years, people across Delaware have trusted the injury lawyers of Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor to provide the highest caliber of legal representation.

Source: Medical errors may be third leading cause of death in the U.S., May 3, 2016, Jen Christensen and Elizabeth Cohen,