Medical mistakes determined third largest cause of death, study says

aHospitalAndAmbulance_vectorstock_893591aHospitalAndAmbulance_vectorstock_893591When patients enter a Las Vegas hospital, they do so with reasonable expectations that they will receive the proper medical care for their conditions. However, new research indicates that a significant number of patients fail to receive even the minimum standard of care in U.S. hospitals, and that lack of care is leading to an epidemic of preventable deaths. According to A New, Evidence-based Estimate of Patient Harms Associated with Hospital Care, a study published in the Journal of Patient Safety, preventable deaths occur in U.S. hospitals at such a high rate that it has become the third largest cause of death in the nation.

Study basics

The study was created and carried out by a prominent NASA toxicologist and head of Patient Safety America, a patient advocacy group that hopes to reduce the number of deaths caused by medical error in the U.S. Researchers received their data from four separate studies, all of which identified instances of preventable medical mistakes that occurred in hospital settings. Examining 4,200 patient records that spanned from 2002 to 2008, researchers used a screening method to identify injury, infection and error of any kind, all of which are commonly referred to as never events throughout the medical world. Records that were believed to indicate a never event occurred were further reviewed by a medical doctor to determine how severe the medical negligence was. Altogether, the four studies indicate that a serious never event occurred in 21 percent of reviewed cases, and never events were lethal in 1.4 percent of cases.


In order to apply the results from the combined studies on a national level, researchers extrapolated the results to include 34 million hospitalizations that occurred throughout 2007. Results of the extrapolation indication that 210,000 patients die in the U.S. every year due to medical error in the hospital setting. However, the study format lacked the ability to account for diagnostic errors and errors in which proper care was withheld. Additionally, medical records often lessen the appearance of harm. With these omissions, researchers believe the actual number of preventable annual hospital deaths is closer to 440,000, making it third only to cancer and heart disease as top killers in the nation.


Dayton Daily News reports that an Ohio woman died 15 months after her surgical team failed to remove a sponge from her abdomen during surgery. Her husband filed a wrongful death lawsuit, alleging that the sponge caused her death. Surgeons performed two additional surgeries to remove the sponge but both failed, and one resulted in a ruptured spleen. Another surgeon finally removed the sponge in a 9 hour surgery. Family members of patients who have suffered from fatal doctor errors can contact a wrongful death attorney in Las Vegas to review their case.