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3rd largest cause of death is medical errors, study says

Written by Ankin Law Office

Most patients enter Illinois hospitals with the expectation that they will receive high quality treatment from skilled, competent health care professionals. Unfortunately, recent research by a patient advocacy group indicates that a large percentage of patients never receive this kind of treatment, and the lack of proper care is causing an epidemic of preventable patient deaths. A New, Evidence-based Estimate of Patient Harms Associated with Hospital Care, which was published by researchers with Patient Safety America in the Journal of Patient Safety , found that preventable deadly medical errors are have become so prevalent, they are now the third largest cause of death in the U.S.

Anatomy of the study

Researchers carried out the study by utilizing the results from four separate studies that identified instances of completely preventable patient harm, or never events, that took place in hospital settings. These never events are considered in the medical world to be such egregious cases of negligence that they should never, under any circumstances, happen. Researchers examined a total of 4,200 patient records from 2002 to 2008 using a special screening method to identify certain never events, such as infection, injury and other errors. When a medical record was identified that seemed to indicate a never event occurred, it was flagged for further review by a medical doctor to confirm that medical malpractice was a factor.


The study found that serious never events occurred in 21 percent of reviewed cases, 1.4 percent of which were lethal. To apply these result on a national level, researchers extrapolated the findings to cover 2007’s 34 million hospitalizations. The extrapolation indicates that 210,000 patients are killed by doctor mistakes in hospital settings every year. However, the study researchers indicate that this number may be deceptively low. The study format was unable to account for diagnostic errors and instances in which proper care was withheld, and medical records are notorious for downplaying evidence of patient harm. Accounting for these omissions, the study authors conclude that the actual number of preventable deaths in U.S. hospitals reaches 440,000 annually. If the study is correct, a medical error causes more deaths than anything except heart disease and cancer in the nation each year.

Devastating reality

The Victoria Advocate reports that a Victoria, Illinois woman was killed following a routine face lift at an area hospital. Her family, which has filed a malpractice suit against the hospital, claims that the hospital failed to monitor the woman properly after surgery. The woman began to hyperventilate, but doctors did not discover her depressed respiratory rate in time to prevent cardiac arrest and she died shortly thereafter.

Victims of medical malpractice are encouraged to contact a Chicago medical malpractice attorney to discuss their claim for compensation.

Categories: Medical Malpractice