Medical Negligence: The Third Leading Cause of Death in the United States

by Dominguez Law Firm, LLC

According to John T. James, PhD in his literature review published in the Journal of Patient Safety, preventable medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States. In Dr. James’ review of updated data, he concludes that preventable patient harms in hospitals is directly associated with 210,000 deaths per year. However, Dr. James estimates that the number of preventable medical errors in hospitals leading to patient death is closer to 400,000 per year.

These makes preventable medical errors the third leading cause of death in the United States behind only heart disease (597,689) and cancer (574,743). The number of deaths related to preventable medical errors is alarming. It means that almost half a million family members, children, and loved ones die every year in a hospital due to mistakes made by medical providers that could have and should have been avoided. Alone these numbers show a big, potentially huge, problem for people who live in the United States.

However, these startling statistics do not include the number of preventable medical errors that seriously injure (not kill) patients in the United States every year, which Dr. James estimates to be twenty times the number of preventable deaths. It also does not include the number of preventable medical errors that we are unaware of because of unreported and undisclosed preventable errors. Unreported preventable medical errors show a dismissive attitude by health care providers and a lack of accountability and transparency by hospital corporations in making an effort to report preventable medical errors. Holding healthcare providers and hospital corporations accountable for their negligence that leads to patient harms is the only way a person can have a positive affect on the healthcare system, and contribute to a decrease in the number of preventable medical errors that lead to patient death and serious injuries.

Currently, the number of preventable harms is increasing. For instance, in 1999, the Institute of Medicine estimated that as many as 98,000 people die every year as a result of preventable harms. These estimates were based off of old hospital data, and although helpful in understanding the type of problem we face, are severely underestimated. Even though measures have been taken by Washington, this seemingly out of control problem is reported to cost at least $19.5 Billion per year. This extreme cost does not factor the indirect costs of preventable medical errors, like loss of productivity from missed work based on disability claims and human potential. When these factors are taken into account, the estimated cost of preventable medical errors is nearly $1 Trillion per year.

Avoidable and preventable medical errors are more common than you may think. If you or a loved one were the victim of medical negligence, a medical error, or just want answers as to the medical standards of care you are entitled to receive, do not hesitate to contact Dominguez Law Firm, LLC at 505-850-5854 for a free consultation. Often we find that people have questions about what happened to them or their loved one while at a hospital, due to the hospital and medical providers not having spent enough time communicating what happened and why. Here at Dominguez Law Firm, LLC we do our best to give you the answers you deserve, and hold the providers and hospital corporations accountable for their negligent actions.