Americans are more likely to die from medical treatment than almost any disease, according to Johns Hopkins University researchers
More deadly than lung disease, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, pneumonia and car accidents are the mistakes made by doctors and their staff.
According to Johns Hopkins University researchers “medical error” is now the third leading cause of death in the United States, third only to heart disease and cancer:
In a study published in British Medical Journal the researchers attributed a quarter million American deaths to medical error last year. Lead researcher Martin Makary, a professor of surgery at Johns Hopkins, calls that a “very conservative” estimate:
Makary defines medical error as including everything from bad doctors to communication breakdowns when patients are handed off from one department to another.
Top 5 medical-error killers:
- Adverse drug events
- IV and catheter-related infection
- Injuries from falls and immobility
- Adverse events during childbirth
- Surgical site infections
“It boils down to people dying from the care that they receive rather than the disease for which they are seeking care,” Makary said.
The “hidden” cause of death
In 1999, an Institute of Medicine report shocked the medical establishment by calling preventable medical errors an “epidemic.” But they haven’t been recognized as a leading cause of death until now because of a faulty reporting system.
“It turns out when you have a patient that dies from a communication breakdown, or poorly coordinated care, or a misdiagnosis” … “it’s not being reported on death certificates or in official cause of death rankings,” Makary said.
That’s because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesn’t require physicians to report errors in the data it collects about deaths.
The number of severe injuries caused by medical error has also been overlooked and under-reported.
Frederick van Pelt, a doctor and health-care consultant who works for the Chartis Group, puts this number at about 10 million per year, around 40 times the death rate.
“We all know how common it is,” Makary said. “We also know how infrequently it’s openly discussed.”
“When a plane crashes, we don’t say this is confidential proprietary information the airline company owns,” he added. “We consider this part of public safety. Hospitals should be held to the same standards.”