Medical Error Is 3rd Leading Cause of Death in US

(Re-posting as I originally made it "Private")

NOTE THIS STATISTIC:

In 2013, 611,105 people died of heart disease, 584,881 died of cancer, and 149,205 died of chronic respiratory disease, according to the CDC.

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Medscape Medical News

Medical Error Is Third Leading Cause of Death in US

Medical error is the third leading cause of death in the United States, after heart disease and cancer, according to findings published today in BMJ.

As such, medical errors should be a top priority for research and resources, say authors Martin Makary, MD, MPH, professor of surgery, and research fellow Michael Daniel, from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland.

But accurate, transparent information about errors is not captured on death certificates, which are the documents the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) uses for ranking causes of death and setting health priorities. Death certificates depend on International Classification of Diseases (ICD) codes for cause of death, so causes such as human and system errors are not recorded on them.

And it's not just the US. According to the World Health Organization, 117 countries code their mortality statistics using the ICD system as the primary health status indicator.

The authors call for better reporting to help capture the scale of the problem and create strategies for reducing it.

Cancer and Heart Disease Get the Attention

"Top-ranked causes of death as reported by the CDC inform our country's research funding and public health priorities," Dr Makary said in an university press release. "Right now, cancer and heart disease get a ton of attention, but since medical errors don't appear on the list, the problem doesn't get the funding and attention it deserves."

In 2013, 611,105 people died of heart disease, 584,881 died of cancer, and 149,205 died of chronic respiratory disease, according to the CDC.

Jim Rickert, MD, an orthopedist in Bedford, Indiana, and president of the Society for Patient Centered Orthopedics, told Medscape Medical News he was not surprised the errors came in at number 3 and that even those calculations don't tell the whole story.

"That doesn't even include doctors' offices and ambulatory care centers," he notes. "That's only inpatient hospitalization resulting in errors."

"I think most people underestimate the risk of error when they seek medical care," he said.

He agrees that adding a field to death certificates to indicate medical error is likely the way to get medical errors the attention they deserve.

"It's public pressure that brings about change. Hospitals have no incentive to publicize errors; neither do doctors or any other provider," he said.

Human error is inevitable, the authors acknowledge, but "we can better measure the problem to design safer systems mitigating its frequency, visibility, and consequences."

They add that most errors aren't caused by bad doctors but by systemic failures and should 'not be addressed with punishment or legal action.

The authors and Dr Rickert disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

BMJ. Published online May 3, 2016. Full text

bmj.com/content/353/bmj.i2139

11 Replies

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  • Locked (private) means that all members on this forum can read it.  Unlocked (everyone) means it can be seen and read by anyone using the web, worldwide.

  • Thanks for that.

  • We don't have to wait for establishment TICK boxes .. I have written letter addressed to coroner office on event of my death .. Quite scaving and showing my discourse re treatment by but not all those responsible for my care treatment.

    I have unfortunately received at hands of such doctors gp's if you can call some of them that.

    I don't know about others but my life as not been a tick box nor a process SO I would say to others WHY wait to be a tick in a box when you can still have your say.

    Great informative post BIT grim but who said lung disease was nice eh 

  • Read Atul Gawande (brilliant American surgeon and campaigner for patient safety) and Matthew Syed (journalist and all round good egg) on this subject. It is far, far more dangerous to go into a hospital for an operation or procedure than to fly round the world for ever or spend your entire life working on the construction of huge buildings. Aviation and Comstruction industries have got their acts together. Medicine is still in the dark ages. In my case the surgeon who operated on me failed to prescribe adequate prevention for DVT and  PEs. He was going against the vast body of surgical and medical opinion, (no other doctors have been able to believe or support his decision) and all protocols, rules and NICE guidelines. And I had pointed out to him that there was a history of thrombosis in my family. As a result of that failure I got PEs which caused permanent damage to my pulmonary blood vessels, and the small airways. But his position seems unchallengeable.  If the managing director of a building company said to his workforce "We don't need to follow these silly rules and guidelines that the government keep forcing on us, do we? We do our own thing." If as result of that and ignoring a clear danger that had been pointed out to him a member of staff or a passer by was seriously injured there would be public outcry, and a court case of culpable negligence. But when it comes to surgeons and consultants generally they can, and I choose this word deliberately, get away with murder. 

    Both the conditions in my lungs have a poor prognosis and I will die a distressing death for me and my family.

    But the best revenge is to live well, and I do. Getting the most of what I have and what I can still do with the huge support of my family and friends.

    K xxx

  • Thestatistics do not surprise me or that the actual figures are probably higher.  A large problem is that nurses are wary of asking if a patient needs more or pod something or should or should not have something.  There had been a recent case where because a patient had been given treatment  - in this case too late and not enough, did not do anything because a senior person had given the treatment.  This lack of treatment and late treatment could have been reversed apparently by one procedure but no one questioned and so the patient died.  This is a very sad state of affairs.

  • The medical profession is the only one that can literally bury its mistakes.

    The SAME day my mother died, a Registrar phoned me to tell me what they were going to write on her death certificate, and was that OK?  I was too distraught to care what the certificate said till later...and too late.

    Tee

  • Most of us are in the UK.  Do you have any figures for this country? 

  • No, but they did mention:

    "And it's not just the US. According to the World Health Organization, 117 countries code their mortality statistics using the ICD system as the primary health status indicator."

    I would imagine it is high there as well as here in Australia.

    We have had a lot of cases in the media over the past few years. Most, of course, don't make it to the media unless there is a court case of some sort, or the media is made aware by family etc.

    Kevin

  • "...In 2013, 611,105 people died of heart disease, 584,881 died of cancer, and 149,205 died of chronic respiratory disease, according to the CDC.

    Jim Rickert, MD, ....was not surprised the errors came in at number 3 and that even those calculations don't tell the whole story..."

    This is sort of confusing for me as in the first paragraph it seems to list  chronic respiratory disease #3 and then goes into the next paragraph saying errors came in #3...; which is it??

    Aside from that, I have for years tried to get folks to regard their docs as little more than shade tree mechanics because that is what they are; just recently I had my regular VA doc tell me it didn't matter if I ate within 7/8 hrs of a blood test since I'm not diabetic.

    Eating affects all sorts of readings in a blood test not least of which is creatinine production having to do with your kidneys.  This time when I'd eaten for the first time before an afternoon blood test, my creatinine reaing was through the roof, which caused some alarm with my 'know it all' doc.

    You've simply got to while paying attention to what they say, learn to double check thoroughly realizing they're only human and not some omnipotent gods.

    It's better to have them than not, but that does not absolve the patient of responsibility for their own health.

  • Chronic respiratory disease is the "official" 3rd leading cause of death.

    This quote from the article above should help clear it up for you: "but since medical errors don't appear on the list"

    Meaning, IF they were included on the list  THEN that would be "officially" the 3rd cause.

    Hope that helps.

    Kevin

  • In my opinion, there is too much emphasis put on to  "patient heel thy self..

    I was carted to hospital had a pot of Black sputum with me was shivering and out of it, I was sent home with the comment  " there`s  nothing wrong with you.

    Again on the following night I was taken into hospital ( same symptoms )b left on a trolly for a few hours then put on a bed with the back rest brocken couldn`t take my vitals  ( no machine working ) needed water Dehydrated couldn`t get water was dehydrated/.. a young trainee aked " hows your back now " EH.. ANOTHER HOUR PASSED AND A SENIOR docter came listened to my chest and said to the youngster this is a pulmonary patient.. get someone from the ward down here now.

    The ambulance crew made them aware that I was a COPDr and they surely had my records,.

    I since have been informed that the Royal is a critical care hospital only??? Is fever  black mucus delirious unable to breath COPD treated Like a cold now?

    It`s no wonder people are dying IN HOSPITAL.. 

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