How Common is Medical Malpractice?

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When you’re under the care and treatment of health care professionals, you trust that you’re in good hands. In fact, medical errors are surprisingly common in hospitals and clinics across the country. Based on data analysis from Johns Hopkins Medical in Baltimore, the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States behind heart disease and cancer.

The Third Leading Cause of Death

A team of patient safety experts at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore analyzed data over eight years and concluded that more than 250,000 deaths every year in the United States are due to medical errors. Some of the most common types of medical malpractice are failure to diagnose a patient’s condition or misdiagnosing his or her condition, improper treatment that deviates from the standard of care or delayed treatment after advising a patient that a condition will resolve without treatment, medication errors in prescribing the wrong medication, the wrong dosage or failing to recognize possible complications, and surgical errors like operating on the wrong patient, wrong part of the body or even leaving a surgical instrument or sponge inside of the patient’s body.

It’s Not a Billing Issue

Both healthcare providers and the general public rely on data provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for vital health information and statistics. What comes to issue is the coding system used by the CDC for classifying a cause of death doesn’t have a code label for medical error. The CDC doesn’t require one either. For example, if a patient dies due to an anesthesia error during an appendectomy, the CDC will report his or her death as the result of acute appendicitis by using a billing code reference. That’s inaccurate on its face. No code exists for anesthesiology or any other type of medical error at all. That reporting oversight helps doctors bury their mistakes.

It has been recommended that a new checkbox on the CDC form should be added indicating whether a patient’s death could have been due to a preventable error. It’s not a surprisingly common fact either that no doctor is going to admit to an error and has committed medical malpractice without legal protection. For the purpose of accurate numbers on medical malpractice resulting in fatalities, there must be a solution to hiding this information. After that, how do we count those medical malpractice victims who are still alive?

Sources

What surgeons leave behind costs some patients dearly | USA Today

How Many Medical Malpractice Cases Occur Every Year? | Gary Weinberg

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