A recent study has linked 250,000 annual deaths to medical mistakes and errors. It’s a stunning number, much higher than many people assume.
In fact, if you look at the official list from the Centers for Disease Control, the only things that rank higher than medical mistakes are cancer and heart disease. Both of them result in about 600,000 annual fatalities. Though the gap between them and medical mistakes is fairly large, that still puts these avoidable errors at third overall.
For the sake of perspective, respiratory disease ranks fourth on the list. It has been linked to about 150,000 annual deaths.
Medical mistakes could take many forms, which is part of the reason that the total is so high. Examples include:
- Making surgical errors, from wrong-site surgery to wrong-patient surgery to fatal mistakes made during the right surgery.
- Giving a person the wrong medication. This could lead to death by not treating the symptoms or by causing fatal side-effects, when the person is allergic to the medication, for instance.
- Giving a patient the wrong dose of a medication. Even if it’s the right drug, the dosage is critical and too much of an otherwise safe drug could prove deadly.
- Not recognizing complications that have occurred. For exmaple, a patient could be bleeding internally after surgery, and the medical team may not see the problem until it is too late.
As you can see from the total of 250,000 annual events, medical mistakes are a real threat to anyone who requires medical care. If you lose a loved one because of a doctor’s negligence, make sure you know what legal options you have.
Source: NPR, “Medical Errors Are No. 3 Cause Of U.S Deaths, Researchers Say,” accessed Feb. 16, 2018