(Updated June 25, 2020)
Preventable medical errors are responsible for at least 210,000 deaths a year, and might cause as many as 400,000 annual deaths, according to a study published in the Journal of Patient Safety (1).
The estimates are based on the findings of four recent studies that identified preventable harm suffered by patients -– known as “adverse events” -– using a screening method called the Global Trigger Tool, which guides reviewers through medical records, searching for signs of infection, injury, or error. Medical records flagged during the initial screening are reviewed by a physician, who determines the extent of the harm (1).
The author of the study concluded that, “action and progress on patient safety is frustratingly slow [and] one must hope that the present, evidence-based estimate… will foster an outcry for overdue changes and increased vigilance in medical care” (1).
Past research on hospital negligence
In 1999, the Institute of Medicine published the well-known “To Err is Human” report, which shocked the medical community when it reported that up to 98,000 people a year die due to mistakes in hospitals (2). The number was initially disputed, but then became widely accepted as accurate. In 2010, the Office of Inspector General for Health and Human Services said that bad hospital care contributed to the deaths of 180,000 Medicare patients alone in a given year (3)
Hospital negligence is a major public health issue
Medical errors were the third leading cause of death in America in 2018, behind heart disease and cancer (4).
The estimates were found by Dr. John James who runs an advocacy group called “Patient Safety America.” He authored a book about the death of his 19 year-old son, who was a victim of negligent hospital care (4, 5). He drew data from four 2002-2008 studies which focused on preventable injury in patients roughly 21% of the time. These were referred to as serious “adverse events,” and the high values across the country were then extrapolated from this data (5).
Many have agreed and disagreed with Dr. James’ findings, but experts say that the truth remains: medical mistakes are a crisis in our country (5).
Help for victims of hospital negligence
With hospital negligence on the rise, it is very important for patients to take an active role in their medical care. If you are ever in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you have already been injured as a result of a hospital error, please contact the nationally recognized attorneys at ABC Law Centers (Reiter & Walsh, P.C.) for a free consultation. We have decades of experience in the field of birth injury law and our numerous multi-million dollar verdicts attest to our success. We are available 24/7 for questions, and we do not charge any fees for the entire legal process unless we win.
- James, John T. PhD A New, Evidence-based Estimate of Patient Harms Associated with Hospital Care, Journal of Patient Safety: September 2013 – Volume 9 – Issue 3 – p 122-128 doi: 10.1097/PTS.0b013e3182948a69
- Read “To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System” at NAP.edu. (1999, December 1). Retrieved from https://www.nap.edu/read/9728/chapter/1
- Zimmerman, D. L., & Osborn-Harrison, D. G. (2017). Person-Focused Health Care Management – Springer Publishing. Retrieved from https://www.springerpub.com/person-focused-health-care-management-9780826194350.html
- Ray Sipherd, special to C. N. B. C. (2018, February 28). The third-leading cause of death in US most doctors don’t want you to know about. Retrieved June 13, 2020, from https://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/22/medical-errors-third-leading-cause-of-death-in-america.html#:~:text=According to a recent study,after heart disease and cancer.
- Marshall Allen, P. P. (2013, September 20). How Many Die From Medical Mistakes In U.S. Hospitals? Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2013/09/20/224507654/how-many-die-from-medical-mistakes-in-u-s-hospitals