Study: Medical errors are a top contributor to mortality in the U.S.

Researchers have found that medical mistakes result in numerous deaths each year, making it one of the top three causes of death in the U.S.

At one point or another in their lives, many Texans may require medical care. When they seek such treatment, people generally expect their doctors and other health care professionals to maintain the appropriate standard of care and for their conditions to improve. Unfortunately, sometimes mistakes occur that result in serious medical complications. In fact, a recent study found that such errors are a leading contributor to mortality in the U.S.

Common medical mistakes

Even though most health care facilities and offices have safety protocols in place, there are still numerous mistakes that commonly occur. Some of the most common of these lapses in care include the following:

  • Administering the wrong medication or dosage
  • Operating on the wrong body part or patient
  • Misdiagnosing a condition
  • Neglecting to prevent health care-related infections

Some of these facility and doctor errors may go unnoticed, while others may lead to potentially fatal conditions. They may occur for any number of reasons, including breakdowns in communication, fatigue, poor judgment and distractions.

Studying the prevalence of health care-related fatalities

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University recently published the findings of a study in the BMJ journal that examined the scope of fatal lapses in health care. For the study, they examined the findings of four prior studies that analyzed the medical death rate between 2000 and 2008.

The researchers defined fatal lapses in medical care as those that involve errors in coordination of care, judgment or skill; system defects; diagnostic errors; and preventable adverse events. They extrapolated the number of deaths resulting from such mistakes based on the total number of hospitalizations in 2013.

Medical errors pose a deadly risk

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that heart disease, which contributed to 614,348 deaths in 2014, and cancer, which led to 591,699 deaths in that same year, are the leading causes of death in the country. Based on their calculations, the researchers determined that medical mistakes are the country's third leading cause of mortality. The researchers estimated that 251,454 deaths each year are the result of medical mistakes. Since the studies they employed do not account for outpatient and at-home deaths, the researchers suggest their calculation is an underestimate.

Despite the study's findings, medical errors are not included on the CDC's list. The researchers point out this is due, at least in part, to limitations on how death certificates are tabulated. On the basis of their findings, they wrote an open letter to the CDC asking for reforms to the current collection system. The researchers' belief is that safer systems cannot be developed and the problem reduced unless the scope of the problem is fully understood.

Working with an attorney

When medical mistakes occur in Texas, it may cause what should have been routine treatments or treatable conditions to be deadly. The sudden loss of a loved one in such situations may be devastating enough for families. Though, the unexpected loss of income and associated expenses may further complicate an already difficult time. Those who have lost a family member due to a medical error may benefit from consulting with a lawyer at 877-643-3099 or by contacting online to discuss their rights and options for pursuing financial compensation.