"Preventable Medical Errors": A Leading Cause of Death in the United States, According to the Institute of Medicine
Preventable Medical Errors are one of the leading causes of death in the United States. Medical malpractice lawyers have been sounding this alarm for years and been fighting this safety risk through the civil justice system. The fact that medical errors are so rampant has not been claimed by just injury lawyers, but also by the Institute of Medicine, which is the health division of the National Academy of Sciences. The Institute of Medicine has found that since 1999, "Preventable Medical Errors" are a leading cause of death in America, more people die from "preventable medical errors" than from breast cancer, traffic accidents, and AIDs, all combined. See: Missouri University School of Medicine Article:
"More than a decade ago, an Institute of Medicine study revealed that preventable medical errors were a leading cause of death, accounting for more fatalities than breast cancer, traffic accidents or AIDS in the United States. Today, the problem of medical errors remains and might even have escalated."
One of the most common preventable medical errors are patient falls in hospitals, typically due to inadequate fall risk assessment and fall prevention practices. Additionally, many surgical mistakes and emergency room mistakes and injuries are the result of bad communication and teamwork between the doctors, nurses, and other staff present in the operating room.
As a St Louis medical malpractice attorney, I hear stories almost daily from clients and patients about negligent care in the hospital. Admittedly, some people are just upset about bad bedside manner and not actual negligence, however, many people have been neglected and errors routinely occur. Many times the errors are from the doctors or nurses simply choosing not to pay close enough attention to what they are doing, or rushing through their jobs at the expense of patient safety.
Another typical cause of preventable mistakes, are doctors doing surgeries they have not been adequately trained to do or simply do not have the pedigree to perform. Such as lap-choli malpractice cases, unqualified surgeons get away with substandard surgical techniques for a while, but as soon as a minor complication comes along, such as atypical but known anatomy differences, they end up cutting the wrong duct or artery and cause real harm or even death.
To help curb preventable errors, some medical schools are finally putting a heavy focus on Quality and Safety through actual safety curriculum and classes that address the underlying issues for medical errors and help teach the techniques to prevent these medical errors.
"Our findings from this study and others indicate that every academic health system should have a critical mass of physicians who can perform and teach others about how to improve quality and safety," said Headrick, who leads the Association of American Medical Colleges' Teaching for Quality initiative. "Ultimately, our efforts should focus on ensuring that physicians become proficient in quality improvement to advance on their career paths."
Unfortunately, contrary to many new sources, the vast majority of medical malpractice cases that go to trial are lost because the jurors feel sympathy towards a doctor or make the decision based on political arguments often heard, such as, rising insurance rates, running doctors out of the state, etc .. all of which are untrue. See Medical Malpractice Myth Debunked by Harvard. Healthcare providers are no different than other people, some are good, some are bad, some chose to cut corners, some have days where they don't pay attention and days when they do very well. Just like many people driving cars on the road do not mean to get into accidents or hurt anyone, yet juries hold them responsible because they chose to text while driving, they chose to try to beat the light, or other things that lead to car crashes. The defense of "known complication" does not work because we all know it is a "known complication" of driving that we could be involved in an accident, just because it is a known risk should not let a negligent driver (or healthcare provider) off the hook. The civil justice system and holding healthcare providers accountable for their mistakes will force them to do better and reduce the number of errors, thus improving patient safety for everyone.