A new study published in the current edition of the Journal of Patient Safety drastically increases the estimated number of people who die each year due to hospital error. The authors estimate that each year between 210,000 and 440,000 patients suffer some type of preventable harm that contributes to their death. They estimate that the rate of serious errors not resulting in death is 10 or 20 times higher, or as high as 8.8 million per year.
A previous study from 1999 estimated hospital deaths due to mistake at 98,000 per year. The new numbers would rank medical errors as the third leading cause of death in the United States.
Although there are some skeptics regarding the accuracy of the new study, the industry agrees that the older figure of 98,000 deaths per year underestimates the true number of deadly hospital mistakes. Experts in patient safety agree that whatever the exact number is, it is too high, and this is a crisis that needs to be addressed.
These numbers are particularly disturbing when considered against the backdrop of decades-long campaigns by Chambers of Commerce and similar organizations to limit people’s access to the courts. While the Affordable Care Act may reduce medical malpractice, litigation has been and continues to be an effective way to compensate families and encourage hospitals to implement safer practices. With about 200,000 errors resulting in 200,000 preventable deaths each year, and potentially millions of mistakes resulting in serious harm, it begs the question why for-profit hospitals aren’t doing more to avoid errors and prevent these deaths.
If you suffered a significant injury from a hospital mistake (for example a delayed diagnosis), then you should contact a malpractice attorney to discuss your legal options. Lopez McHugh LLP is accepting and investigating incidents of medical malpractice; all initial consultations are free of charge.