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Medical Errors The Third Leading Cause Of Death In The United States

March 2, 2015

medical-error-featured-image-3-300x140.pngBetween 210,000 to 440,000 patients are killed every year in the United States by medical mistakes.

In determining this figure, the Journal of Patient Safety reviewed four studies, looking at specific evidence in medical records, which pointed to mistakes which harmed patients. Some of the mistakes which were flagged included medication stop orders and abnormal laboratory results.

This estimate makes preventable medical errors the third cause of death in America following heart disease and cancer. Patients are dying, not from the ailments which caused them to seek medical attention, but from medical errors that could have been prevented. These preventable errors include inaccurate or incomplete diagnosis or treatment of an ailment. These errors are mistakes of judgment or technique.

These errors are occurring, not only in hospitals, but also in urgent care centers, clinics, physician offices, and pharmacies. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that 43 percent of malpractice claims from 2009 were in the outpatient setting. Today, more people receive medical care in outpatient settings than in hospitals. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that in 2010 over 1 billion visits were made to physician offices while there were only 35.1 million hospital discharges.[1]

While a guiding principle of medicine states that the physician should not cause harm to the patient (“first, do no harm”), estimates show, today, medical errors are a leading cause of death in America.

[1] For more information, visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/physician_visits.htm; http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/hospital.htm.

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