We can’t be exactly sure how many Americans die as a result of hospital negligence each year, but new research suggests that it could be a lot more than was once thought. A new study in the most recent issue of the Journal of Patient Safety suggests that between 210,000 and 440,000 patients die each year after falling victim to preventable medical errors.
These numbers are much higher than what previously has been reported. Back in 1999, the public was outraged when the Institute of Medicine released a now infamous report indicating that as many as 98,000 patients suffered fatal injuries each year as a result of medical negligence.
But roughly 11 years later, the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services released a report suggesting that poor hospital care contributes to the deaths of about 180,000 Medicare patients alone each year. It seems that with each new report, the numbers get graver still.
The most recent research from the Journal of Patient Safety was based on four studies that analyzed the records of more than 4,200 patients who were hospitalized between 2002 and 2008. The researchers found that about 21 percent of the patients fell victim to serious preventable errors, while close to 1.4 percent of cases involved deadly errors.
However, the lead researcher determined that the actual rate of error could be double that because the method for finding adverse events in patient records doesn’t catch errors of omission, which result when treatment should have been administered but wasn’t. Additionally, many of the “adverse events” go unreported.
The lead researcher, a toxicologist at a NASA space center who lost his teenage son to negligent hospital care, suggested that a “national patient bill of rights” could be helpful to encourage “more patient involvement in identifying harmful events and participating in rigorous follow-up investigations to identify root causes.”
Currently, the main way these adverse events are investigated and adjudicated is through medical malpractice lawsuits. When a patient is harmed, the patient or the patient’s family has the opportunity to consult a medical malpractice lawyer who can help determine if negligent care was to blame. This remains the best way – and one of the only ways – to hold hospitals accountable for the quality of care they provide.
Source: Idea Stream, “How Many Die From Medical Mistakes In U.S. Hospitals,” Sept. 20, 2013