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At least 210,000 Deaths Due to Medical Errors

By Josh Silverman on September 23, 2013


In 1998, the Institute of Medicine published a report "To Err is Human" that found that 98,000 people die each year in the U.S. due to medical malpractice.  In 2010, a Department of Health and Human Services report found that 180,000 Medicare patients die each year as a result of medical malpractice.  Now a NASA scientist has studied 4200 patient deaths and found 1.4% of the deaths were due to a lethal medical error.  I found these statistics this morning in a Scientific American article.

A word about the statistics, stats are always prone to competing interpretations about the results and the methodology.  However, this article was published in a very well respected journal and most importantly is based on a sizable case study of 4200 patient deaths.  The good news is that while people may argue over the exact numbers hospitals and physician are taking note of the fact that far too many people are dying due to medical malpractice and taking steps to reduce the number of patient deaths due to medical errors.

The following are examples of preventable medical errors:

Medication errors including:

  1. Administering the wrong medication to a patient;
  2. Administering the wrong dose of the medication;
  3. Administering a medication that the patient is allergic to;
  4. Administering a medication in an incorrect manner (for example an injection instead of an IV)
  5. Failing to administer a medication

Surgical errors including:

  1. Leaving a foreign object inside of the body (most common in abdominal and pelvic surgeries);
  2. Operating on the wrong part of the body;
  3. Failing to use sanitary practices;
  4. Failing to recognize patient injuries.

Pressure Ulcers (also called decubitus ulcers or bed sores)

I encourage you to follow the link to the article.  The comments are interesting and productive.  Hopefully this report will lead to healthcare providers being more pro-active at prevent medical errors.

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