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Medical Negligence: 3rd Leading Cause of Death in the United States

Posted on: November 11th, 2014 by Romanucci & Blandin

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), in the United States, medical negligence is the third leading cause of death. That puts medical negligence right behind heart disease, which is the leading cause of death, and cancer, which is the second.
In 1999, the Institute of Medicine published a report that has since become very well-known, entitled, “To Err is Human,” and the report estimated that 98,000 people died each year because of mistakes that were made in hospitals. At the time, this was widely disputed, but has since become more widely accepted.

In 2012, there was over $3 billion that was spent on medical malpractice payouts, which averages out to approximately one payout every 43 minutes.

In 2013, the Journal of Patient Safety conducted a study that stated that errors in hospitals contributed to 210,000 to 440,000 patient’ deaths each year in the U.S. The study also says that these deaths could have been prevented if it were not for the medical errors. Other researchers have looked further into this study and have found that it is credible, even though the number is only an estimate.

One of the most common types of medical mistakes that are made are misdiagnoses. Around 51% of medical malpractice injuries are the direct result of a misdiagnosis. A study conducted by BMJ Quality & Safety found that there are roughly 12 million people who seek medical care every year, and about one in 20 patients are misdiagnosed. From those patients who receive a misdiagnosis, the researchers say that severe harm could potentially come to half of them.

After misdiagnosis, the other leading contributors to medical mistakes are surgical errors, childbirth injuries, medication errors, anesthesia errors, inadequate patient monitoring and defective medical equipment. Surgical errors are the second highest contributor, and there are approximately 40 cases of surgical errors in the United States per week, including surgeries involving the wrong patient, the wrong procedure, the wrong side surgery and the wrong surgery site.

In addition to the tragic and overwhelming amount of people who die each year because of medical negligence, an additional problem with medical negligence is how much these medical errors are costing Americans taxpayers. A report in the 2012 Journal of Health Care Finance stated that medical errors may cost around $1 trillion each year, when including indirect costs, such as additional medical costs, productivity losses and shortened life spans.

Medical malpractice suits occur when a patient or their family want to seek compensation for the medical negligence that took place and when a medical professional failed to provide the accepted standard of health care, which led to injury or death of the patient. The medical professional may be held responsible for damages, which can include medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, loss of earning capacity and loss of consortium. If a medical professional has acted with gross negligence, or if they acted with malicious intent, the patient or their family may also be able to seek punitive damages. By seeking justice and compensation for the terrible harm that has been inflicted on you as a result of medical negligence, you can do a small part in helping to hold medical professionals responsible for their actions.

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