Medical Errors Third Largest Cause of Death

May 11th, 2016 ~ A recent Johns Hopkins School of Medicine study finds that more U.S. residents die from medical errors than from any other cause except heart disease and cancer.

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The study, published in The BMJ, examined studies from 1999 and the years following and arrived at a mean annual death rate from medical errors of 251,454 individuals. After the researchers arrived at a mean annual death rate from medical error of 251,454 individuals, they compared the figure to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) annual list of most common causes of death in the U.S. and it was determined that medical error ranks third in the U.S.

The researchers note that though human error cannot be eliminated, they suggest safer systems can be designed to reduce the frequency and severity of medical errors.

According to the analysis, strategies to reduce care-related deaths should include increasing transparency around medical errors, being ready with remedies to rescue patients and acknowledging when a medical error may have contributed to a death, such as in an extra field on a death certificate.

There are 117 countries, including the U.S., with death certificates that do not include an area for acknowledging medical error. Death certificates are assigned an ICD code for a medical diagnosis but deaths caused by human or system error are not captured. This study is expected to increase pressure for more specific causes on death certificates.


Source: Study: Netburn, Deborah, “Medical Errors Are No. 3 Cause of Death in the U.S., After Heart Disease and Cancer,” Los Angeles Times Science Now, May 3, 2016; Bakalar, Nicholas, “Medical Errors May Cause Over 250,000 Deaths a Year,” New York Times Well, May 3, 2016; Allen, Marshall; Pierce, Olga, “Medical Errors Are No. 3 Cause of U.S Deaths, Researchers Say,” NPRShots, May 3, 2016; O’Donnell, Jayne, “Second Study Says Medical Errors Third-Leading Cause of Death in U.S.” USA Today, May 3, 2016; Eunjung Cha, Ariana, “Researchers: Medical Errors Now Third Leading Cause of Death in United States,” Washington PostTo Your Health, May 3, 2016