Number of People Killed by Medical Mistakes Quadruples

Are you sure you want to read this?  Previously it was thought that about 100,000 people a year died from medical mistakes. But the truth is, it's quadruple that.  A study in the current issue of the Journal of Patient Safety that says the numbers may be much higher — "between 210,000 and 440,000 patients each year who go to the hospital for care suffer some type of preventable harm that contributes to their death, the study says," according to

Here's something even more scary.  That would make medical errors the third-leading cause of death in America, behind heart disease, which is the first, and cancer, which is second.

Though others balk at the numbers, believing it's really closer to 100,000, the study author based his estimates "on the findings of four recent studies that identified preventable harm suffered by patients –known as “adverse events” in the medical vernacular – using a tool which guides reviewers through medical records, searching for signs of infection, injury or error. Medical records flagged during the initial screening are reviewed by a doctor, who determines the extent of the harm, reports.

By combining the findings and extrapolating across 34 million hospitalizations in 2007, the author concluded that preventable errors contribute to the deaths of 210,000 hospital patients annually. But the actual number more than doubles, John T. James, a toxicologist at NASA's space center in Houston who runs an advocacy organization called Patient Safety America, reasoned, because the tool used "doesn’t catch errors in which treatment should have been provided but wasn’t, because it’s known that medical records are missing some evidence of harm, and because diagnostic errors aren’t captured."

Do you ever want to go to the hospital again?

An estimate of 440,000 deaths from care in hospitals “is roughly one-sixth of all deaths that occur in the United States each year,” James wrote in his study. Other research has shown that hospital reporting systems and peer-review capture only a fraction of patient harm or negligent care. quotes Dr. David Mayer, the vice president of quality and safety at Maryland-based MedStar Health, who said people can make arguments about how many patient deaths are hastened by poor hospital care, but that’s not really the point. All the estimates, even on the low end, expose a crisis.

"Way too many people are being harmed by unintentional medical error,” Mayer told, “and it needs to be corrected.”


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