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The Shocking Truth About Deadly Medical Mistakes: How Often They Happen and What the Medical Community Does About Them

A 2016 study by patient safety researchers at Johns Hopkins Medical School reveals two shocking truths about fatal medical mistakes: they are stunningly common and there’s no industry–wide effort to share what providers learn from them.

The findings were published in the BMJ, formerly the British Medical Journal. The study was led by Martin Makary, a Johns Hopkins surgery professor and cancer surgeon.

While the study covered topics broader than the scope of this article, here’s more on two shocking truths revealed in it:

Medical Errors Are Likely the Third Leading Cause of Death in the United States

Using data from four other studies, including one by the federal Department of Health and Human Services, the comprehensive Johns Hopkins study calculated provider mistakes causing about 251,000 deaths a year. That puts death by medical treatment (or lack thereof) behind only heart disease and cancer as the top three causes of death in the US.

The study defined medical errors to include areas medical malpractice cases focus on, such as:

  • Unintentional mistakes or failure to take proper steps.
  • Using the wrong treatment.
  • Substandard care.

Bonus shocker: The study felt the number of deaths is actually understated, due to limited data.

The Medical Community Overlooks the Chance to Learn From Mistakes

The Johns Hopkins researchers picked up a disturbing trend, given how it prevents improving patient care: generally, hospitals don’t share info with each other about fatal mistakes.

While most healthcare systems have internal committees to evaluate fatal medical accidents to prevent them in the future, that’s as far as it goes. They don’t share lessons learned with other systems so errors can be prevented elsewhere.

The study proposes a startlingly simple solution: share the data, just like the healthcare field shares other research and innovation. The doctors involved could have their privacy protected by remaining unnamed in reports.

Final bonus shocker: The study didn’t include severe injuries from medical errors, which some researchers estimate may be 40 times higher.

Our Final Analysis

This study highlights basic reasons why it may be a good idea to consider legal action after a preventable hospital or health care death.

·       It can shed light on a topic doctors and hospitals often avoid.

·       Sometimes it’s the only way a grieving family can get answers.

·       Sometimes it’s the only way to prevent a similar mistake from hurting someone else.

At Holland & Usry, we take medical malpractice cases seriously. We are sensitive to the fact many of our injury clients would have no hope in life without the aid of a skilled, wise, compassionate doctor and staff. Thus, we consider only select cases, which don’t involve a physician who regularly helps our clients and are (sadly) strong cases. To see if you qualify, feel free to start a FREE live chat from where you are. We know you’re already in an awful spot, so rest assured we will make it as easy as we can to find answers.

 

Rob Usry
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Rob is a South Carolina personal injury and criminal defense lawyer.

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