Report: Research suggests medical errors are a top three cause of death

The findings of a recent study suggest that medical errors are an all too common occurrence and should be listed as a top cause of death in the U.S.

When it comes to medical treatment, many people in Maryland and elsewhere think of their providers as being infallible. Unfortunately, however, medical errors can and do occur, and may result in serious injury, worsened medical condition or death for patients. In fact, recent research conducted by Johns Hopkins Medicine patient safety experts found that fatal medical mistakes are among the leading causes of mortality in the U.S.

Examples of medical errors

Should they result in worsened condition or death, there is any number of occurrences that may be considered medical errors. Some of the most common of these include the following:

  • Delayed diagnosis, failure to diagnose or misdiagnosis
  • Administering the wrong medication
  • Performing the wrong surgical procedure
  • Neglecting to account for the patient's blood type
  • Unintentionally retained foreign objects

Due to such errors, patients may require further medical interventions or treatments, which may not be successful and may lead to additional, unanticipated medical expenses.

Examining the occurrence of medical deaths

Seeking to better understand the problem of medical deaths and to draw attention to a perceived need for an updated standard for collecting national statistics, patient safety experts with Johns Hopkins Medicine conducted a comprehensive analysis study. Publishing their findings in The BMJ, the study's authors used the hospital admission rates from 2013 and the data and findings from four previous studies into the medical death rate between 2000 and 2008. Currently, the national standard for death rate data relies on medical billing codes, which account for the conditions for which patients initially seek treatment, but not whether that treatment caused their deaths.

Fatal medical mistakes are an all too common danger

Based on their findings, the study's authors suggest doctor mistakes should be included on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's leading causes of death list. Extrapolating on the study's included data, the researchers estimate that 251,454 deaths occurring out of a total of 35,416,020 hospitalizations were the result of medical errors. This would place such mistakes third on the CDC's list, behind only heart disease and cancer. Those conditions reportedly contributed to 633,842 and 595,930 deaths in 2015 respectively.

Pursuing financial compensation

The loss of a loved one in Maryland as a result of a doctor error may leave families struggling with their grief, as well as with the sudden loss of an income. Further, they may face undue expenses, including medical bills and funerary costs. Depending on the circumstances, however, the medical professional or facility responsible may be held financially liable. Therefore, those who have experienced such situations may benefit from seeking legal guidance to discuss their rights and options.