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The underreporting of medical malpractice fatalities

On Behalf of | Sep 4, 2017 | Medical Malpractice

Many people do not readily know the extent of how often medical malpractice is the actual cause of death. The fatal error may be by overt commission of an act that should not have been taken or, alternatively, by omission or failure to act when a particular action should have been taken.

As reported by USA Today, at least two recent studies indicate that death from medical malpractice is the third leading cause of death in the United States. One source of confusion, however, is that the entities that report cause of death when such fatality occurs may be underreporting those facts.

Lack of form fields on death certificate

U.S. death certificates lack a spot to indicate medical error as the cause of death. That is, if a person dies of a heart attack, the certificate may so indicate this cause. However, it may fail to note that the death was avoidable if not for medical error.

The reporting of cause of death needs improvement so that the public and the medical profession may understand the true numbers of death by medical mistake. Proponents of improved reporting urge that death certificates should include a place on the form to indicate that the deceased person’s death did in fact result directly from medical care and provide some details.

Improved reporting to increase prevention

Reporting improvements may also shed light on the substance of the errors. More information can help in the development of protocols to reduce or eliminate specific errors. By knowing when there is a medical error resulting in a death, medical staff can implement measures to decrease the numbers of tragedies.

Experts insist that to reduce the incidence of death by malpractice, it is important to ensure that such errors become more visible when they happen. Knowledge of the errors leading to death can lead to strategies to prevent the error. Such strategies may include providing on site patient-rescue remedies and instilling practices that better accommodate human limitations.

Patients may not realize the true level of risk of medical errors that can cause serious injury or death. Better reporting and more transparency overall may both better inform patients and lead to better methods of preventing the damages resulting from medical malpractice.