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Medical errors really the third leading cause of death?

Massachusetts residents might be interested to hear that there has been some debate over recent statistics released concerning medical errors. New estimates released by the Journal of Patient Safety seem to suggest that medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States, following heart disease and cancer. According to the journal, between 400,000 and 425,000 people die each year due to medical errors in the nation.

The World Health Organization ranks America as 12th out of a list of 13 countries with modern medical care. Yet, some medical professionals point out that when you take into consideration all the advanced technology, knowledge and experience of medical doctors, then the overall outlook of patients is as poor as that of those in countries that do not have access to the same modern technology. Some say that prescribing medications that patients cannot afford and that other countries don't prescribe, as well as the high rate of illnesses caused by medications could contribute to statistics. According to a report released by the Journal of the American Medical Association, whereas an estimated annual 45,000 people die from surgical errors each year, 106,000 die from non-error adverse effects from pharmaceutical medications.

However, other people point out that when you examine the medical profession as a whole, the statistics might not be as drastic as they seem. There are risks and rewards associated with all medications, and doctors are aware of that when issuing prescriptions. Plus, many times people wait until their conditions have worsened before seeking medical attention. Still, others abuse their prescription medications or don't take them as prescribed.

People who have experienced worsened conditions as a result of medical errors could be able to file a medical malpractice lawsuit to seek compensation. Medical malpractice attorneys might be able to help them wage their lawsuits and negotiate settlements for their claims.

Source: The Washington Times, "Are medical errors the third leading cause of death?", Paul Mountjoy, September 29, 2013

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