Medical Errors the 3rd Most Common Cause of Death in the US
When you go to your doctor or you visit a medical facility to get treatment for an ailment, you’re putting all of your trust in their expertise and their ability to help you without making you sicker. Unfortunately, there are many medical errors that occur every day all over the country, and there are many lawsuits that are brought forth in the realm of medical negligence and malpractice. This is why so many people choose to study health law and policy and pursue their health law degree to represent victims and their families in court.
A Leading Cause of Death in the United States
As of 2016, medical errors have become the third most common cause of death in the United States. However, this information is not contained in the yearly list of common causes of death in the US, which is created and released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The list is designed to increase the level of public awareness, and it also dictates national research priorities every year.
How the Information Is Gathered
In order to create their list of the most common causes of death in the country, the CDC will use the death certificates that are filled out by funeral directors, coroners, medical examiners, and physicians. The problem, however, is that a code needs to be assigned to every death certificate. That code is known as the International Classification of Disease, or ICD. It points to the cause of death, but there are causes of death that aren’t associated with any of those codes, and medical error is one of them. In other words, medical errors aren’t included on death certificates.
The Researchers Involved
Martin Makary is a professor of surgery at Johns Hopkins University, and he was the leader of this research into medical errors causing so many deaths in the United States. He has stated that the vast category of medical errors includes systemic issues like communication breakdowns between medical departments, as well as doctors who aren’t able to properly treat patients. Ultimately, the medical errors, rather than the actual diseases that these patients were suffering from, were the cause of their death, and he feels that it’s time to recognize this fact.
Makary conducted comprehensive analyses of four studies, including those by the Health and Human Services Department. What he found is that 251,000 people died as a result of medical error, and that translates to almost 700 deaths per day, or roughly 9.5% of all of the deaths that occur each year in the country. That puts medical error in third place, behind heart disease and cancer, among the leading causes of death in the US.
You can’t control what your doctors and nurses do, but you can take steps to reduce your risk of becoming a victim of medical negligence. When searching for a doctor or medical facility, look into their track record, read patient reviews, and ask them questions that will help you determine if they are truly experts in their field.