Most people have heard the term, “medical errors,” but they don’t often think it can happen to them. Physicians and medical staff are exceptionally well trained and often seem infallible when it comes to their profession. When we hear about cases where a patient’s death is the result of medical malpractice, it seems like it must be the exception to the rule.
Unfortunately, fatal medical errors are more common than many of us realize. A new study by researchers are Johns Hopkins Medicine recently found that medical errors should be listed as the third highest cause of death in the United States. The only reason medical mistakes are not reported as a leading cause of death is because of how medical errors are listed on death certificates.
The finding that medical errors are far more common than assumed is troubling. Under current guidelines, errors are often not captured in the cause of death listed on death certificates.
Instead of contributing a patient’s death to a medical error, the patient’s cause of death may be attributed to an underlying disease, such as heart disease or cancer. However, the reality is that a preventable medical mistake caused the fatality. The researchers are seeking to accurately record this information in order to keep patients safe and reduce fatal medical errors.
Common medical errors
There are a wide range of possible medical errors which can impact patient care to the point of death. Some of the most common medical errors include:
- Misdiagnosis: Misdiagnosing an illness or not diagnosing an illness for a prolonged period of time can lead to fatal complications.
- Medication errors: This might be a simple error in prescribing too much of a medication for body weight. An error in prescription dosage can easily lead to accidental death.
- Surgical errors: Errors can occur during surgical procedures, such as leaving a sponge or other object inside a patient.
- Childbirth: There are a number of medical errors during childbirth which can have a negative impact on the child, as well as the mother.
A simple communication mistake can result in a patient not having the right organ removed during surgery or receiving the wrong medication. It is difficult for families to identify negligence after losing a loved one. If you think medical malpractice might be the cause of a family member’s death, it’s important to seek counsel who can look at all of the information without bias and determine your legal recourse.