Patient safety researchers have completed a study evaluating the quality of healthcare in the United States. Heart disease and cancer are still ranked first and second respectively, but medical errors have overtaken lung disease and strokes as the third leading cause of death. To gain greater insight into the problem, researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have reviewed four of the most recent studies analyzing medical errors. Their examination exposed that 9.5% of deaths in the U.S. are caused by doctor or medical facility errors.
The profound danger of improper medical care is not a new phenomenon, and reports as early as the late 1990s recount the growing epidemic of medical malpractice as a leading cause of death for Americans. One of the first studies exposing the growing problem of deadly medical errors was conducted in 1999 by the Institute of Medicine. They found that as many as 98,000 deaths were caused by errors in healthcare facilities by medical professionals. Now, an exhaustive study was recently conducted by The BMJ, and they found that the number of medically responsible deaths has more than doubled over the last 15 years. Advances in technology and pharmaceutical discoveries have not staved off the more than 250,000 American deaths annually that are directly caused by medical errors.
Medical Errors and Malpractice
A related investigative examination of the issue was conducted by Consumer Reports, and they found an uncomfortable number of suspended doctors still practicing. Medical Malpractice numbers are growing, and of the 1.25 million doctors licensed since 1990, 15% have paid a malpractice settlement or faced disciplinary action. They also found that issues like drug abuse, sexual improprieties, and negligence were correlating to deadly mistakes.
In their report, they highlighted the horrors inflicted upon the public by an OB/GYN in Southern California. The doctor removed a healthy ovary from a 37-year-old woman who was sent home in pain with the symptomatic ovary still inside her. His negligence and poor judgment were found to be the cause of at least two deaths. Pharmaceutical errors are commonly occurring inside top hospitals across the country, and researchers found that 124 of 277 proctored operations had medication errors that harmed the patient.
The number of Americans dying from the quality of care they received as opposed to the disease that necessitated the need for the medical care is a stark reality the medical community has needed to face. The realization that an avoidable and wholly accidental cause could be responsible for killing more Americans than Alzheimer’s, diabetes and upper respiratory infections combined is difficult to reconcile.
To further explore the impact healthcare mistakes can inflict on the population, researchers are searching for an explanation for the increase in errors each year. The impact of deadly medical errors is especially felt by the families of generally healthy individuals when a family member with a reasonably long remaining life expectancy dies inexplicably.
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There isn’t just one definitive cause for the increase in medical errors, but there are many doctors currently on medical probation still practicing medicine in the United States. Medical errors range from misdiagnosis to application of an incorrect medication or even dosage errors. Also, because many of the medical errors that have resulted in death are not labeled as such on death certificates, there are deaths caused by error not being recorded as such. While some doctors can be trusted to self-report errors made via outpatient, inpatient, or operating activities, the reliability of self-reporting is another point of concern for the medical community.
If you think a member of your family has been the victim of medical malpractice and negligence, then you should contact the medical malpractice attorneys at Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe, LLP in Long Island, New York, to discuss the legal support and solutions we can provide in your medical malpractice suit.