Doctor or hospital errors of one sort or another claim the lives of more than 250,000 people each year in New Mexico and around the country according to a 2016 study from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. This figure would make medical mistakes the third leading cause of death in the United States after coronary disease and cancer. Another study published in the Journal of Patient Safety in 2013 put the annual death toll from medical errors at an even more worrying 440,000. Experts say the reason these numbers are underreported in official statistics is because human error is rarely mentioned on death certificates.
Common and preventable errors lie at the root of the problem
Johns Hopkins researchers reached their sobering conclusion after comparing death rate data gathered between 2000 and 2008 with more than 35 million hospital admissions. They put deaths down to medical errors when patients died because of preventable adverse effects or system defects or doctors or nurses made mistakes in judgement or care or lacked crucial training or skills. Common problems identified by the researchers included surgical complications, computer malfunctions and prescription mix-ups.
One in five medical procedures may be unnecessary
Additionally, the profit motive could be making the problem worse. The researchers point out that busy hospitals generate more revenue and pharmaceutical companies encourage doctors to recommend their drugs by offering them financial incentives. According to a Johns Hopkins professor, this has led to a situation where about 20% of the medical procedures performed each year in the United States are unnecessary.
Establishing causation in medical malpractice lawsuits
In order to prevail in court, medical malpractice plaintiffs must prove that they suffered injury, loss or damage as a direct result of a doctor or hospital error. This can be difficult as they may have already been seriously ill when the mistake was made. If you are thinking of pursuing medical malpractice litigation, a personal injury attorney with experience in this area could seek to establish causation by calling on specialists. Medical experts could examine health care records to determine where medical errors were made and what the outcome would likely have been if they had been avoided.