We frequently read articles in the news about medical errors by trained medical professionals entrusted with our care—professionals who are sometimes charged with making life and death decisions. Unfortunately, these articles aren’t simply examples of the media’s attempt to sell newspapers. Stories like these are common because medical errors in hospitals and healthcare facilities around the country are now the third leading cause of death in the United States. A recent analysis published in the BMJ (formerly known as British Medical Journal) places the human toll at roughly 251,000 lives per year. If this information isn’t shocking enough, consider this: these people all died because they were receiving care, not because they weren’t receiving it. 251, 000 lives per year translates into 700 per day, and approaches 10% of all deaths in the U.S. annually. Only heart disease and cancer cause more deaths.
What is causing the medical error epidemic?
Surprisingly, detailed information regarding individual medical errors is not readily available. Healthcare facilities are reluctant to provide specifics on medical errors and the CDC (Center for Disease Control) does not require reporting of medical errors. It’s a situation in which healthcare providers are aware that medical errors are taking place, but also acknowledge that not enough discussion about the issue is taking place.
No other industry with responsibility for so many human lives has the luxury of such lax reporting.
Where to begin?
Perhaps a logical path to discovery should begin by looking at the incident rates of medical malpractice. Studies have shown that a surprisingly small number of physicians (roughly 1%) are responsible for nearly 32% of all malpractice claims. Are these same physicians contributing to the large number of medical errors?
A Consumer Reports investigation in California revealed that a large number of physicians were practicing medicine despite being on probation for violations concerning patient safety. How can this allowed?
Perhaps some might consider these recent findings preliminary. However, immediate action seems to be warranted. Lives are at stake. Healthcare providers should only be held accountable, but should also be forthcoming in regard to providing specific and detailed information surrounding medical errors that affect patients under their care. Making this one change could instantly provide additional information helpful toward solving the medical error epidemic. Contact a personal injury lawyer who deals with spinal cord injuries if you are such a situation.