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New report on medical errors paints bleak picture

A new report released in the journal BMJ concludes two very frightening aspects of medical errors. The first is that there may be many more medical errors that actually occur then we are aware of. And the second is that the number of medical errors that occur in the United States ranks them as the third leading cause of death in the U.S. behind only heart disease and cancer.

The report went into a little more detail. The researchers estimated that more than 251,000 deaths per year in the U.S. are related to medical errors. That far exceeds an oft-cited study from 1999 which estimated that somewhere between 44,000-98,000 people die every year as a result of a medical error. Subsequent studies, though, have shown increasing predictions for the number of deaths related to medical errors.

The report also criticized death certificates because they don’t ask for enough data — and that, researchers believe, may be leading to fewer medical errors being reported than are actually occurring.

That’s a scary thought to have, but it should alert you to the potential dangers of medical care. We aren’t suggesting that you resist medical care, or that you avoid going to the doctor or hospital when you are suffering medically. But when your medical care is botched or when you receive substandard care, you need to hold the institutions and medical professionals involved responsible for what occurred.

Source: CNN, “Medical errors may be third leading cause of death in the U.S.,” Jen Christensen and Elizabeth Cohen, May 4, 2016

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