Report: Medical Mistakes Third Leading Cause of Death in US

AP Photo/Whitney Curtis
AP Photo/Whitney Curtis

Medical errors by doctors and nurses are now the third leading cause of death in the US, according to researchers.

A new study undertaken by medical safety researchers has revealed that “medical errors” in hospitals and health care facilities are claiming roughly 250,000 lives a year, more than Alzheimer, respiratory disease, strokes, and accidents.

Martin Makary, a professor of surgery at John Hopkins University who led the inquiry, said that the study included everything from bad doctors to general mismanagement.

“It boils down to people dying from the care that they receive rather than the disease for which they are seeking care,” he said.

Makary’s estimate of 251,000 deaths equates to nearly 700 deaths every day and roughly 9.5 percent of all deaths annually in the United States.

He and his co-author, Michael Daniel, reportedly undertook the research to shed light on an issue they believed people in the medical profession are failing to confront.

In 1999, an Institute of Medicine (IOM) report argued that preventable medical errors were an “epidemic.”

“However the overall numbers haven’t changed [since 1999,] and that’s discouraging and alarming,” said Kenneth Sands, an affiliate of the Harvard Medical School.

“Measuring the problem is the absolute first step,” Makary said. “Hospitals are currently investigating deaths where medical error could have been a cause, but they are under-resourced. What we need to do is study patterns nationally,” he added.

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