Researchers discover that medical errors, often unreported, are a top cause of death.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine report that about 250,000 Americans die each year from medical errors. This puts medical errors as the #3 cause of death in the United States with heart disease and cancer as the #1 and #2 causes. This is a recent discovery due to the way the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports mortality statistics. The CDC publishes mortality statistics that only reflect the “underlying cause of death,” which refers to the reason the person was seeking medical care. This means that if someone with cancer went in for treatment and medical error during their treatment led to their death, cancer would still be listed as their official cause of death. This has skewed the statistics for how many times medical errors have been the actual cause of death. The Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers hope that this reporting system will change.
They also advocate for doctors to be more assertive in reporting medical errors. It is an uncomfortable request as you are asking doctors to report on their own errors, but the researchers hope that appealing to the doctors’ sense of duty to promote better public health standards will overcome this discomfort. An increase in reporting would bring the bigger issues to the attention of lawmakers and those in charge of disbursing funds to address these problems. It is a public health concern and should be a priority for research funding.
The number of medical error deaths is scary. How do I prevent myself from becoming one of those numbers?
There are many different medical errors that can result in the death of a patient. Some of these causes include:
While there is no way to completely safeguard yourself against the possibility of a medical error in your treatment, there are ways to protect yourself.
- Bring a friend, family member, or loved one to your doctor and hospital visits: They can be important advocates for your treatment. They can also aid in coordinating your care and asking important questions about your treatment and treatment options.
- Research your treatment options: read up and become knowledgeable about your treatment options. Be vocal with your doctors about any questions or concerns you may have.
- Get a second opinion: This is especially true if you might be undergoing something like a surgical procedure. Dr. Martin Makary of Johns Hopkins Medicine states that about 20 percent of second opinions differ from the first opinion. Know your options and the potential dangers and benefits of each.
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