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Medical errors cited as third leading cause of death in U.S.

Patients at New Mexico hospitals count on the safety and accuracy of the care they receive every day. In the event of a problem, they look to the larger medical community or perhaps the legal community for help. A medical error can be difficult to identify at times and may be small with minimal consequences or may be quite severe leading to long-term disabilities or even wrongful death.

A recent report conducted by a NASA toxicologist suggests that the instance of wrongful death due to some type of medical error is far higher than previously thought. Estimates in the study indicate that between 210,000 and 440,000 patients die every year from errors made while at the hospital. If correct, these numbers would make medical errors number three on the list of the most common causes of death nationwide, behind only heart disease and cancer.

The report author is advocating for greater patient involvement in treatment and even suggests the possibility that a national patient bill of rights when being treated in the hospital may be helpful. Some groups are applauding the new study while others believe the true number is much lower. The challenge lies with the fact that accurate identification of a medical mistake is difficult. A wrongful death can occur from a misdiagnosis of a fatal condition, an anesthesia error or several other causes but is not always clear and easy to notice.

If you have lost a loved one due to a medical error, you know the pain that it leaves survivors with. While there is no way to bring a deceased person back, you may be able to receive compensation for the wrongful act. Consulting with an attorney in such a situation may be well worth your time.

Source: KCUR, “How Many Die From Medical Mistakes In U.S. Hospitals?,” September 24, 2013

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