Despite Under-Reporting, Medical Error Proves Third Leading Cause of Death in U.S.

medical error third leading cause of deathAccording to a 2017 group survey conducted by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, (IHI) the National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF), the Lucian Leape Institute and the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago, 21 percent of individuals in the United States believe that they might have been subjected to medical malpractice at some point in the past. After heart disease and cancer, it’s reported that medical error is third leading cause of death in the U.S.

Annual Death Statistics as a Result of a Medical Error

Diagnostic failure, medication errors, and surgical errors make up the top three most commonly reported types of medical malpractice. Of these individuals, about 73 percent denoted that they were actually injured by the error.

A recent study by Johns Hopkins found that over 250,000 people in the United States die annually as a result of a medical error (third leading cause of death), while other reports have found that number to be as high as 440,000.

The great difference in estimate is because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rely on death certificates when posting national death statistics. However, doctors, coroners and medical examiners don’t often note human error on death certificates.

Though still unsuccessful, authors of the study have appealed to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), requesting a change in data collection methods. Martin Makary, M.D., M.P.H., professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine explained that “top-ranked causes of death as reported by the CDC inform our country’s research funding and public health priorities,” he said. “Right now, cancer and heart disease get a ton of attention, but since medical errors don’t appear on the list, the problem doesn’t get the funding and attention it deserves.”

Medical error, caused by inadequately skilled staff, a system defect, error in judgment or care, or preventable adverse effects, contributes to about nine and a half percent of all U.S. deaths annually. The researchers of the study stated that most medical errors are not due to inherently bad physicians, and that they don’t believe that there should be punishment or legal action taken, but that most errors are indicative of systemic problems including:

  • Poor care coordination.
  • Fragmented insurance networks.
  • Unwarranted variation in physician practice patterns or lack of accountability.
  • Absence of underuse of safety nets and other protocols.

Payment of Medical Malpractice Claims Continues to Decline

A 2017 report published by JAMA Internal Medicine found that the rate of payments for medical malpractice claims is on the decline, having fallen by 55 percent from 2009 to 2014. The Associated Press reported only 41 medical malpractice verdicts or settlements in 2017. Although there are many more claims that do reach verdicts and settlements, thousands of claims are settled without reporting and many of the ones that do make it to court remain unreported.

How These Changes May Help

By changing the way in which death data is collected in the United States, we can put our funding into the things that are most prevalent, affecting the most people, and therefore hoping to protect and save as many as possible. If you have initiated a lawsuit surrounding injuries sustained or death due to medical malpractice, but worry about your ability to keep up with all of your expenses, call USClaims.

At USClaims, we offer pre-settlement funding, if a case is qualified for pre-settlement funding then we would purchase a portion of the proceeds of the anticipated court judgment or settlement for some cash now. USClaims only gets paid if a case is won or has reached a settlement! Apply now or call us today at 1-877-USCLAIMS to learn more.

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