Study Shows Medical Mistakes Now Third Leading Cause of Death in America

According to a recent study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), medical mistakes in all types of healthcare facilities now account for more than 250,000 deaths in the United States every year, making medical malpractice the third-leading cause of death in the country. The report concluded that medical negligence causes more fatalities than accidents, strokes, respiratory disease or Alzheimer’s.

The study, led by a professor from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, shows a dramatic increase from previous studies, such one published in 1999 by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), which estimated annual medical malpractice deaths at 98,000. The recent research includes the findings of four studies, conducted between 2000 and 2008, including one by the HHS Inspector General’s Office. According to Martin Makary, who co-led the research, medical errors account for nearly 10 percent of all deaths in the United States.

Makary said that, though the IOM report was anticipated to lead to changes that would reduce medical malpractice-related deaths, the trend has clearly been in the other direction. He cited lack of standardization in medical and hospital practices as a significant contributor. He said that the approach over the last two decades has been for the hospital to investigate malpractice on a case-by-case basis. He recommended that the patterns be studied at the national level.

Medical professionals say that injuries from medical mistakes are just as much of a problem. One doctor estimated that the injury rate could be 40 times the death rate.

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