Medical Negligence a Leading Cause for Mortality Rates in US

Medical errors are a major concern regardless of patient’s life expectancies and the number of deaths in US hospitals that are reportedly due to medical errors is disturbingly high.

Medical errors leading to patient death are much higher than previously thought, and may be as high as 400,000 deaths a year, according to a new study in the Journal of Patient Safety. The new estimates were developed by John T. James, a toxicologist at NASA’s space center in Houston who runs an advocacy organization called Patient Safety America.

The study reveals that each year Preventable Adverse Events (PAEs) lead to the death of 210,000 – 400,000 patients who seek care at a hospital. James analyzed four recent studies and based on weighted average of these four studies, he concluded that at least 210,000 deaths are due to preventable harm in hospitals. But because of the limitations of the tool and incomplete medical records, he wrote that the number is likely twice that figure, more than 400,000 deaths each year. Subsequently, these figures would make medical errors the third leading cause of death behind heart disease and cancer, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics.

In a general understanding, a medical malpractice, medical misadventure or adverse event includes an unintentional cut, gauze accidentally left in a body during surgery, the failure of sterile precautions, or the failure to administer a correct dosage of drugs or radiation, physician failure to take into account patient constraints that may impact the success of treatment after discharge, diagnostic errors etc. Indeed concerned with the cause, the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging held a hearing to examine the issue of preventable medical errors and patient safety entitled: “More Than 1,000 Preventable Deaths a Day Is Too Many: The Need to Improve Patient Safety” on July 17, 2014.  The panel included few medical experts who came up with the various concerns and opined that one of the leading contributors to preventable medical errors is infections, injuries due to prescription drug mishaps and hospital’s administrative inefficiencies.

It is high time for the health management agencies as well as the state administrative department to curb such medical misadventure measures.

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