Third Leading Cause of Death in US May Be Medical Errors

Public Health Watchdog Breaking News
Public Health Watchdog Breaking News

The frequency of “medical errors” in relation to deaths, 251,000 a year in the United States, have been researched at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. The findings conclude that “medical errors” may be the third leading cause of death ahead of respiratory disease, accidents, stroke, and Alzheimer’s, reports The Washington Post.

Martin Makary, a professor of surgery at Johns Hopkins, led the study and told the Post that errors include everything from poor provider care to systemic flaws such as communication issues between departments.

Makary’s research involved an analysis between 2000 to 2008 of four studies including ones by the Health and Human Services Department’s Office of the Inspector General and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The 251,000 deaths are equal to about 700 deaths a day, or 9.5 percent of all deaths annually in the country. “It boils down to people dying from the care that they receive rather than the disease for which they are seeking care,” said Makary, as told to The Washington Post.

Makary believes the CDC should update its vital statistics reporting requirements so that “physicians must report whether there was any error that led to a preventable death.” Makary added, “We all know how common it is. We also know how infrequently it’s openly discussed.”

In 1999, the Institute of Medicine published a report that called medical errors an “epidemic” which shocked the medical community and initiated a discussion about ways to improve the situation. Estimates reported that medical errors accounted for 98,000 deaths a year.

Makary believes the first step is to measure the problem and then to “study patterns nationally,” The Washington Post reports.