Medical Malpractice Accounts for Over 250,000 Deaths Annually

Medical Malpractice Accounts for Over 250,000 Deaths Annually

A study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) has found that medical malpractice or error accounts for approximately 250,000 deaths annually in the United States – ranking as the third leading cause of death, right behind cancer and heart disease.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine calculated that medical errors cause nearly 700 deaths per day; 9.5% of all deaths in the United States on a yearly basis. Incompetent doctors, complications from surgery, miscommunication, misdiagnosis, and general poor judgement can all be factors that result in medical errors, but unfortunately, there is not accurate data that specifically pinpoints an over-arching cause, and the actual amount of deaths due to medical negligence could be higher.

This is because the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) don’t require that medical errors be reported and it is not included as a cause of death on death certificates. The CDC argues that the death certificate does note complications from medical care, but that cause of death is the condition that initially brought the patient in to see the doctor. Researchers from Johns Hopkins are urging the CDC to add medical errors to its annual list of top causes of death and alter death certificates so that doctors can report medical errors on a more routine basis. Experts believe that a better tracking system would improve public recognition and funding to provide doctors with better education and strategy when it comes to reporting medical errors.

Nearly 20 years earlier, a similar report was released by the Institute of Medicine noting the “epidemic” of preventable medical errors that led to almost 98,000 deaths each year. Despite that initial report, little has been done and the number of deaths continues to rise. One theory as to why this is happening is the lack of standardization of tolerance throughout the practice and that there is no systematic effort to study medical errors. Even if there was, hospitals are underfunded when it comes to investigating medical errors and ongoing issues are more likely to fall through the cracks.

As patients, we place our lives and our trust in doctors, nurses, surgeons, and medical professionals in hopes that we receive a high standard of quality care. Medical malpractice can lead to devastating, life-lasting injuries. The experienced medical malpractice lawyers at Goldberg, Persky & White, P.C., protect your legal rights by answering any questions you have about your case and giving you the support you need so that you can concentrate on regaining your health.  Contact a Pittsburgh Medical Malpractice Lawyer today.


Martin A. Makary, “Medical Error – The Third Leading Cause of Death in the US,” BMJ  2016;353:i2139 (May 2016). [Link]


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