It is no secret that doctors make mistakes. What is not clear, however, is how frequently those mistakes are made, and how often such mistakes lead to patient death. That is because when a death certificate is issued, the original condition is listed as the cause of death, even if a medical mistake turned an otherwise preventable complication fatal.

Now, researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine say medical mistakes may be the third leading cause of death in America after heart disease and cancer. According to the researchers, more than 250,000 Americans die each year from mistakes such as unnoticed surgical complications, misdiagnosis, and mixing up medications given to patients. However, the exact number is unknown, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) does not track what deaths are caused by mistakes and poor judgment.

Under the study, “medical error” is defined as “an unintended act (either by omission or commission) or one that does not achieve its intended outcome, the failure of a planned action to be completed as intended (an error of execution), the use of a wrong plan to achieve an aim (an error of planning), or a deviation from the process of care that may or may not cause harm to the patient.” “Communication breakdowns, diagnostic errors, poor judgment, and inadequate skill can directly result in patient harm and death,” and would be counted as “medical error” were it properly recorded.

The lack of accounting by the CDC has led to a lack of public attention to the problem. As a result, few lawmakers focus on policies addressing patient safety, and few resources are directed at tackling the problem. However, even if the CDC collected such data, it is unclear how accurate that data would be. The CDC primarily relies on self-reporting by doctors and hospitals when death certificates are issued. A doctor or hospital who made a mistake that caused a preventable complication and lead to the death of a patient would be unlikely to admit that mistake, let alone officially record it on a death certificate.

An experienced medical malpractice attorney is the best way to hold doctors and hospitals accountable for the devastating injuries that can result from medical mistakes such as misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis, negligent care, medication errors, anesthesia errors, and surgery errors.

If you or someone you know was harmed by a medical mistake, you may be entitled to compensation. The experienced medical malpractice attorneys at Levy Konigsberg LLP will fight to hold doctors and hospitals accountable for their mistakes and get you the compensation you deserve.


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