Medical Negligence: 3rd Leading Cause of Death in the U.S.

Data from a 2016 analysis by Johns Hopkins University shows 10% of deaths in the United States are caused by preventable medical mistakes. This statistic puts medical negligence as the third leading cause of death in the U.S. after heart disease and cancer.

In an open letter, the researchers from Johns Hopkins urged the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to add medical errors to its annual report of leading causes of death. The CDC compiled and currently lists medical error as the third leading cause of death in the United States.

In the analysis, four separate studies on medical death data from 2000 to 2008 were examined. Next, the researchers used hospital admission rates from 2013 to conclude that, out of 35,416,020 hospitalizations, 251,454 deaths occurred as a result of medical error. The researchers at Johns Hopkins found that the majority of fatal medical errors stem from administrative and systemic problems including poor communication, unsatisfactorily coordinated care, fragmented insurance networks, and the lack or underutilization of safety protocols. The analysis by Johns Hopkins draws attention to the chronic problem of medical negligence and its fatalities.

Medical Negligence vs. Medical Malpractice

Medical negligence refers to preventable adverse effects of medical care involving unintentional mistakes or oversights. When a doctor or other healthcare provider ignores their primary medical responsibilities and indirectly causes an injury or death to a patient, this would be considered medical negligence.

Medical malpractice is a category of medical negligence in which a physician fails to provide the standard of care to a patient and this failure results in serious injury or death. According to the findings of the study by Johns Hopkins University, most fatal medical errors are a result of medical negligence.

How Fatal Medical Negligence Errors Occur

Fatal medical mistakes can occur in a number of different ways including misdiagnosis, misprescription, surgical error, and inadequate documentation of medical records. Sometimes patient injury or death occurs as a result of hospital error by nurses, technicians, administrators, or electronic health record (EHR ) systems. Hospitals are legally responsible for the negligent acts of their employees.

In their open letter to the CDC, the leading researchers in the Johns Hopkins study defined fatal medical negligence as “death due to 1) an error in judgement, skill, or coordination of care, 2) a diagnostic error, 3) a system defect resulting in death or a failure to rescue a patient from death, or 4) a preventable adverse event.” They urged the CDC to review the data and address the issues  surrounding “death from care” and treat them as seriously as they would other “scientific endeavors,” such as research into fatal diseases.

Medical Negligence Attorneys in Oregon & Southwest Washington

With offices in Portland and Eugene, we represent people with injury and wrongful death claims resulting from hospital and physician negligence. At Miller & Wagner, we have extensive experience handling medical negligence and medical malpractice cases in Oregon and Southwest Washington.

With over 65 years of combined medical negligence litigation experience, Dave Miller & Bob Wagner know how to help you build a solid case. If you or a loved one were a victim of a preventable medical injury or fatality, contact us today for a free initial consultation.