In an article appearing in Scientific American entitled, “How Many Die from Medical Mistakes in U.S. Hospitals?,” the frequently quoted figure of up to 98,000 annual deaths in U.S. hospitals due to medical negligence has been updated to at least 210,000 and may be more than 400,000 premature deaths due to preventable harm, which would make hospital mistakes the third leading cause of death in the United States behind heart disease and cancer.
The original figure (up to 98,000 avoidable hospital deaths in the United States annually) was reported by the Institute of Medicine in its 1999 publication, “To Err Is Human.” While that figure was initially disputed, it was subsequently accepted and thereafter often quoted. Then, in 2010, the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported that hospital mistakes contributed to the deaths of 180,000 Medicare patients annually.
The Scientific American article is based on a study reported in the September 2013 edition of the Journal of Patient Safety entitled, “A New, Evidence-based Estimate of Patient Harms Associated with Hospital Care,” which concluded, “Recent data from the 4 key studies provide a more comprehensive, evidence-based estimate of the number of lethal and serious medical errors than the one provided by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) … It is our opinion that none of the 4 studies alone can provide a defensible estimate for hospitals across the United States; however, by combining the studies, an evidence-based estimate of the number of lethal PAEs [preventable adverse events] across the country can be developed … the best estimate from combining these 4 studies is 34,400,000 [the number of hospital discharges in the United States in 2007] × 0.69 [69% – the average percentage of preventable adverse events among all adverse events] × 0.0089 [0.89% – the death rate from adverse events] = 210,000 preventable adverse events per year that contribute to the death of hospitalized patients.” Source
It is suggested that the actual number of U.S. hospital deaths due to preventable mistakes is more than double the 210,000 estimate because the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s Global Trigger Tool, which uses “triggers” to identify adverse events for measuring the overall level of harm in a health care organization and which was used in the 4 studies mentioned above, does not identify medical errors in which treatment should have been provided but was not provided because the medical records were missing some evidence of harm or diagnostic errors were not captured.
If your family member (or you) die as a result of a hospital mistake, a hospital error, or hospital malpractice, it really does not matter to you if there are up to 98,000 people who die each year due to hospital mistakes in the United States, or if that figure is actually over 400,000. Any avoidable (or premature) hospital death is a tragedy and a waste of life.
If you or a loved one suffered serious injury (or death) as a result of medical malpractice that occurred in a U.S. hospital, you should promptly seek the legal advice of a medical malpractice lawyer in your U.S. state who may investigate your hospital malpractice claim for you and file a hospital malpractice lawsuit on your behalf, if appropriate.
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