Medical mistakes are a leading cause of death, study finds

People in Massachusetts and elsewhere may require medical treatment to care for ongoing ailments or to address emergency conditions, among other reasons. When they go in for this care, patients do not expect doctor errors to occur. However, medical mistakes are all too common, and frequently result in worsened medical conditions or death. In fact, based on the findings of a recent study, medical errors are the number three leading cause of death in the U.S.

Common medical mistakes

Despite protocols aimed at ensuring patient safety, there are a number of medical errors that occur in hospitals and other health care facilities. These include the following:

  • Administering the wrong medication
  • Administering the wrong dosage
  • Misdiagnosing a patient's condition
  • Failing to monitor a patient's vital signs
  • Using defective or contaminated equipment

Additionally, surgical errors, such as operating on the wrong body part or patient, performing the wrong procedure or unintentionally leaving a foreign object inside of a patient are also common. If proper care is taken and the safety protocols are adhered to, most medical mistakes such as these are preventable.

Studying the prevalence of medical mistake-related deaths

Researchers from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine conducted to a study to shed light on the problem of doctor errors, and they published their findings in The BMJ. For the study, the researchers analyzed the data from four studies that examined the medical death rate for a number of patients between 2000 and 2008, according to a Johns Hopkins Medicine report. They then used the hospital admission rates for 2013 in order to extrapolate the number of deaths resulting from medical mistakes.

Medical error-related deaths are widely unobserved

Based on their analysis, the researchers estimate that medical errors cause at least 251,454 deaths each year. This translates to almost 700 lives lost every day, according to the Washington Post. The study's estimates place medical errors third on the list of leading causes of death in the U.S. It is behind only heart disease and cancer. Medical mistakes are reported differently, however, so they are not listed on the CDC's list of leading causes of death in the U.S.

Seeking legal guidance

When people are the victims of doctor errors in Massachusetts, their conditions may worsen rather than improve. Consequently, they may require additional medical treatment. This may lead to unexpected medical costs, as well as lost income. Depending on the circumstances, however, the negligent health care provider may be held liable for the resulting damages. Thus, it may benefit people to consult with an attorney to learn about their options for pursuing financial compensation.