Medical Error is Not Usually Recorded as Cause of Death
The US Food and Drug Administration found 119 patients who depended on ventilators to breathe died between 2005 and May 2011 due to problems with the machines’ warning alarms.
Caregivers were found at times to have failed to respond to the warning beeps, or to have set the alarms on the ventilator improperly– so they sounded too softly, or not at all. The FDA determined that many adverse events involving ventilators and patients were “preventable,” or due to “human error.”
But more than likely, the cause listed on the death certificate of these patients is “respiratory failure,” according to a new analysis by Dr. Martin Makary, a cancer surgeon and professor of health policy and management at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and Michael Daniel, a Johns Hopkins medical student. There is no conspiracy theory being espoused, only simple fact: “medical error” isn’t even an option on death certificates in America.
But Medical Error is Responsible for More Than 250,000 Deaths Per Year, Say Experts
The problem is bigger than just ventilator death misclassification. Johns Hopkins experts have calculated that more than 250,000 deaths per year are due to medical error in the United States– which would make medical error the third leading cause of death according to the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC’s) current classification system.
It turns out that they way the CDC collects health statistics does not classify medical errors separately on death certificates. “Incidence rates for deaths directly attributable to medical care gone awry haven’t been recognized in any standardized method for collecting national statistics,” says Makary. “The medical coding system was designed to maximize billing for physician services, not to collect national health statistics, as it is currently being used.”
The problem with tabulating mortality statistics with billing codes is there is no built-in way to capture the incidence rate of death due to medical error. And with the research indicating researchers say that since that time, national mortality statistics have been tabulated using billing codes, which don’t have a built-in way to recognize incidence rates of mortality due to medical care gone wrong.
Medical Error 3rd Leading Cause of Death in United States
According to CDC statistics for 2013, 611,105 people died due to heart disease, 584,881 died due to cancer and 149,205 died due to chronic respiratory disease. This would put the newly calculated statistics for deaths due to medical errors behind cancer but well ahead of respiratory disease– therefore the third leading cause of death in the United States.
Researchers indicated that most medical errors that resulted in death were due to poorly coordinated medical care, insurance networks that were fragmented, lack of or underuse of safety nets, and physicians employing various practice patterns that that lack accountability.
Medical Errors and Attorneys
It’s important to contact an attorney as soon as possible if you or a loved one has been the victim of a medical error– whether that error happened in a hospital, emergency room, operating room, delivery room, or even at home while under a doctor’s care. Your attorney can investigate the level of care provided to you by your medical professional, and help determine whether medical malpractice occurred.
Have you or a loved one been a victim of a medical error in Florida?
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