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Study estimates higher incidence of preventable medical deaths

Diagnostic errors, omissions, miscommunication, untreated infection, surgical mistakes, or even medication interactions might result in preventable medical error deaths. A 1999 study by the Institute of Medicine estimated that preventable errors might take the lives of around 98,000 patients each year.

However, a recent study’s estimate is much more alarming. John T. James, a NASA toxicologist who also runs a patient advocacy organization called Patient Safety America, conducted the research. James analyzed the data from four different studies conducted between 2008 and 2011 to arrive at an estimate of between 200,000 and 400,000 fatal injuries to patients each year. If correct, his estimate means that medical mistakes are the third-leading cause of death in the country.

As a medical malpractice attorney might agree, there could be several reasons for the discrepancy in estimates. Hospital insurance policies may disagree with injury characterizations, perhaps not reporting an error as preventable. Hospital bureaucracy may also make errors less transparent in. In addition, medical malpractice lawsuits that are resolved by settlement might also not have been counted in the original 1999 tally.

Without the assistance of an attorney, some patients or their surviving families might not be able to hold doctors accountable for medical errors. That’s where the work of an experienced medical malpractice attorney might begin. Even though a patient’s health care team may have included many different individuals, the treatment received must be consistent with the overall health treatment objective. If miscommunication occurred at any step along the way, an attorney might be able to discover that act of negligence and present it in a persuasive way to the trial jury.

In an age of electronic record keeping, there is no excuse for negligence or any medical miscommunication. From the initial patient intake, to a more thorough review of a patient’s medical history and medications list, every member of a health care team has a duty to provide professional, consistent care to a patient.

Source:, “A new, evidence-based estimate of patient harms associated with hospital care,” John T. James, Sept. 2013