According to a recent report released by the British Medical Journal (BMJ), medical errors are now the third-leading cause of death in the United States. Published on May 3, the report estimates that more than 251,000 deaths in the U.S. in 2013 were due to medical errors; a significantly higher total than the estimates put forth by previous reports.
Per the BMJ report, only heart disease (611,000 deaths) and cancer (585,000 deaths) were more lethal than medical errors in 2013. Medical errors combined for more deaths than suicide (41,000), firearms (34,000) and motor vehicle accidents (34,000) combined. However, medical errors are not recorded on U.S. death certificates, and so they are difficult to monitor and assess.
The report notes that “deaths caused by errors are unmeasured and discussions about prevention occur in limited and confidential forums.” Because of this, only “a fraction of detected adverse events and the lessons learnt are not disseminated beyond the institution or department.”
The new BMJ Report focused on “preventable lethal events,” and defines medical errors in four ways:
- An unintended act (either of omission or commission) or one that does not achieve its intended outcome
- The failure of a planned action to be completed as intended (an error of execution)
- The use of a wrong plan to achieve an aim (an error of planning)
- A deviation from the process of care that may or may not cause harm to the patient
If a member of your family has died as the result of a medical error, contact our medical malpractice attorneys near Boston, MA, for a free, no-obligation case evaluation. Sheff Law has a history of helping the victims of medical error deaths receive compensation for their losses.