They say that medicine is a practice. While we may chalk that up to our doctors trying different treatments when we go to see them with an illness or injury we don’t expect to die because they made a mistake!
A new study out of John Hopkins University concludes that over 250,000 people in the United States each and every year die because of “medical error.” This puts people dying because of medical mistakes at number three on the list of leading causes of death as calculated by the Center for Disease Control.
“Incidence rates for deaths directly attributable to medical care gone awry haven’t been recognized in any standardized method for collecting national statistics,” says Dr. Martin Makary, professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and an authority on health reform. Dr. Makary cites the medical coding system for cloaking this stunning statistic.
The study found that based on 35,426,020 patients admitted to the hospital, 251,454 patients died due to “medical error.” This calculates to 9.5 percent of all deaths in the United States each year.
According to the CDC, in the year 2013, 611,105 people died of heart disease, 584,881 of cancer, and 149,205 of chronic respiratory disease. These were the top three causes of death in the United States. When the 251,454 medical error number is added, we see that it now comes in second place.
It should be noted and understood that not all “medical errors” are caused by “bad doctors.” The John Hopkins researchers stress that there are other reasons these errors take place. Some of these reasons are systemic problems and include poorly coordinated care, inadequate and fragmented insurance networks, inconsistent protocols, and “unwarranted variation in physician practice patterns that lack accountability.”
“Top-ranked causes of death as reported by the CDC inform our country’s research funding and public health priorities,” Dr. Makary says. “Right now, cancer and heart disease get a ton of attention, but since medical errors don’t appear on the list, the problem doesn’t get the funding and attention it deserves.”
This, if for no other reason, is why we should be engaged in the management of our own healthcare, whether it be during a doctor’s visit or a hospital stay. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. You never know what it might spark in a physician’s mind!
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