440,000 Deaths Due to Medical Negligence Every Year.

Worried Doctor

As a St. Louis medical malpractice lawyer, when I refer to “Medical malpractice” I mean when someone is injured or dies from a PREVENTABLE Medical error. All the statistic below refer to PREVENTABLE medical errors or medical malpractice.

More studies and reports that “preventable medical errors” contribute to cause anywhere from 200,000 up to 440,000 death per year in the United States. The high rate of death from preventable medical errors, or medical negligence, has been reported for the last 20 years and referred to as the 3rd leading cause of death in the US:

  • In 1994, Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reported 180,000 deaths in hospitals alone from medical mistakes.
  • In 1999, The Institute of Medicine reported 98,000 deaths a year from preventable medical mistakes.
  • In 2010 the Inspector General for the US Department of HSS said 180,000 Medicare patients alone die each year from “bad hospital care”.
  • In 2013, Journal of Patient Safety, a NASA scientist calculated up to 440,000 patient die each year in hospitals from medical malpractice.  His findings were affirmed by “three prominent patient safety researchers to review James’ study […] and all said his methods and findings were credible.” See NPR Article on Medical Mistakes.
  • Additionally, 74% of medical errors not resulting in death are preventable. This was also reported in the Journal and the American Medical Association, JAMA.
  • In July 2014, a US Senate Panel was told that “Preventable medical errors in hospitals are the third leading cause of death in the United States, […]Only heart disease and cancer kill more Americans.”

The 10 most common Medical Errors in the US according to Medical Malpractice Insurance Companies are:

  1. Technical Medical Errors: such as a surgeon cutting the wrong artery or operating on the wrong body part. Occurs often in gallbladder surgery malpractice.
  2. Failure to Use Indicated Tests: not running required tests to rule out a possible condition. Common error is dismissing chest pain as indigestion without running an EKG to make sure it is not a heart attack.
  3. Avoidable Delay in Treatment: admission personnel not properly triage patients and leaving them to sit for hours for medical care while their condition progresses beyond treatment. Common example is not appreciating the signs of a stroke and allowing the patient to sit and suffer the continuing injury.
  4. Failure to take Precautions: common occurrence is patient falls from inadequate help from nurses or staff. Operating on the wrong part of the body because the doctor did not do a time out which resulted in Wrong Site Surgery.
  5. Failure to Act on Test Results: Sounds obvious but occurs often, medical personnel simply do not pay attention to important test results. From MRI and biopsy results to simple blood tests.
  6. Inadequate Monitoring after Procedure: Many times a complication of a surgery is not the problem, it is the failure of the doctor or nurses to recognize the patient is suffering from a post op problem. Infections, respiratory problems, or other problems with the patient’s vitals. These preventable errors occur most often in ICU, ER, and operating rooms.
  7. Inadequate Patient Prep before Procedure: Pre-op screening, knowing medication allergies, or not advising patient to stop taking certain medications which may thin the blood or otherwise interfere with the surgery.
  8. Inadequate Follow up after Treatment: Similar to #6 but refers to after the patient is discharged from the doctor’s care. Improper after procedure monitoring and follow up to be vigilant for signs and symptoms of post procedure complications that could indicate or lead to serious injury.
  9. Avoidable Delay In Diagnosis: Caused form not recognizing known clinical signs and symptoms as well as #2 and #5 above.
  10. Improper Medication Dose or Use: Not checking for a common allergy to morphine or other drugs or prescribing the wrong type of amount of drug that ends up causing more harm.