Medical errors are the third leading cause of deaths in the United States after heart disease and cancer. According to an article by Steve Sternberg entitled “medical errors are third leading cause of death in the U.S.” published on May 3, 2016 at www.aol.com article. 2016 medical errors caused at least 250,000 deaths every year. Dr. Martin Makary, a professor of surgery and health policy at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine stated “its medical care gone awry”. The magnitude of the death toll, 10% of the U.S. deaths annually is striking in an era dominated by efforts to reform the health care system. Patients’ safety efforts has failed to gain traction because there is no systematic effort to study medical errors. Dr. Makary states “medical errors leading to a patient’s death is an unrecognized epidemic”.
Two decades after “to err is human”, a report published by The Institute of Medicine, a quasi-public think tank made up of leading scientists, estimated that 44,000 to 98,000 people die in U.S. hospitals each year. A new estimate is drawn from more recent studies that shows the number may be much higher. A report published in The Journal Health Affairs in 2001 that just over 1% of hospital patients die each year because of medical errors. 35 million people are hospitalized each year would translate into 400,201 deaths per year, more than four times the original. The IOM estimate of 44,000 to 98,000 people die in US hospitals.
The John Hopkins team used evidence from their studies that analyzed medical death data from 2000 to 2008 using this data they were able to calculate a mean death rate for medical errors in US hospital which calculated that 251,454 deaths resulted from medical errors. Dr. Makary and Dr. Daniel of John Hopkins called for reform that would improve the reporting of medical errors. These two doctors in a letter of May 1, 2016 have asked The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention to rank medical errors on the list of leading causes of death in the U.S. They also asked The CDC to alter death certificates so doctors and medical examinations and coroners can routinely report medical errors that contribute to a patient’s death. The letter to the CDC also stated “it is time for the country to invest in medical quality and patient safety”. The CDC acknowledged that errors are under reported and that there are ways to capture the data using death certificates to report medical errors. Dr. Makary concludes that medical error research is “underfunded and under reported” and this prompted him to embark on an analysis that would elevate fatal mistakes to their proper place near the top of the list of all causes of death.