Patient Safety News: Medical errors are third leading cause of death

Medical errors are now the third leading cause of death in the United States behind cancer and heart attacks according to a study released by Johns Hopkins University earlier this month.

Medical errors aren’t limited to surgical errors or issues related to the birth of a child. Issues can arise with wound infections, diagnostic mishaps, prescription errors, etc. The errors can happen in a hospital, physician’s office, nursing home, ambulance, and even in the patient’s own home.

An estimated 250,000 people die each year from medical errors according to information in the Johns Hopkins study. The faults don’t always result in death for the patients, however. Some patients are left with debilitating and unbearable injuries that can leave them out of work, needing to be in constant contact with medical professionals, and out of viable options to feel well again.

Dr. Dora Anne Mills, the vice president of clinical affairs at the University of New England, told the Portland Press Herald in their early May article that medical errors are “one of the biggest public health problems we have. People who go into health care do it generally because they want to help others. The people are good, people’s intentions are good, but the system is broken.”

Mills points to lack of communication among health care staff as a key contribution to medical negligence. With the doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists, pharmacists, and others being trained in different ways on different subjects, there’s no surprise that there is a disconnect.

“We are all educated and trained separately,” Mills told the Press Herald as she continued on with a baseball analogy. “It would be like training all of the second basemen separately from third basemen and the outfielders, and then getting them all together on opening day and saying, ‘Play ball!’ What would happen? They wouldn’t be very good.”

Attorneys at Berman & Simmons are handling cases involving medical malpractice and commend Johns Hopkins University for conducting and publishing a study that brings the issue of medical errors to the forefront.

“Patients who suffer from medical malpractice are often unsure of the road ahead.” Bramley said. “These errors are unfortunately common and, while the intentions of the medical professionals are virtuous, the errors can be fatal. It’s important that a respected university like Johns Hopkins is taking the problem seriously and is openly communicating the findings of the study so that healthcare professionals can focus on improving safety for the patients.”