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Third leading cause of death: Medical errors

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When you walk into a clinic or hospital seeking treatment for yourself or your family, you have a reasonable expectation and trust that you are in good hands. While many doctors and medical facilities provide excellent healthcare, the 2016 study from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine is alarming.

According to the study, medical errors are the third leading cause of death. At least 250,000 deaths occur every year, which is approximately 10 percent of the entire United States population. Dr. Martin Makary, one of the study's authors, claims the numbers a frighteningly high because we have no systems in place to study errors or to create adequate safety systems. 

The researchers defined Medical errors as lapses in judgment, skill or coordination, wrong diagnoses, system failures and other complications that are preventable. However, because there is no systematic way to report medical error deaths the researchers agree that the numbers are difficult to accurately pinpoint. Despite this, the numbers are increasing from previous studies conducted.

Common medical errors

Most people hear about the higher profile instances of a medical error when a surgeon leaves a device inside the patient, removes the wrong limb or operates on the wrong person. Occasionally a patient will receive a lethal IV injection from a nurse. However, other less frequently mentioned errors also include:

  • Waking up during surgery
  • Lost nursing home patient
  • Wrong embryo implant, baby switch or baby abduction
  • Misdiagnoses
  • Ambulance dispatch errors
  • Hospital superbug infection
  • Pharmaceutical error-wrong medication
  • Toxic transplant
  • Air bubbles in an IV or wrong tubing
  • Wrong blood for transfusion
  • Too much radiation in a CT scan or metal in the MRI room
  • Surgical fire burns

To prevent potential errors you can be proactive by reviewing your online medical records to assure their accuracy. If you see a notation that doesn't seem to belong to you, report it to your healthcare provider. Otherwise, in the unfortunate event you or someone you love has suffered an injury or death due to a medical error you can speak to a qualified attorney experienced with medical malpractice.

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