Report: Research finds medical errors a leading cause of death in U.S.

While they are human, people often expect health care providers to be perfect in performing their jobs. Unfortunately, medical errors occur all too often in Ohio and elsewhere. Such mistakes commonly result in worsened medical conditions or death for patients. In fact, a recent study conducted by researchers from Johns Hopkins found that medical mistakes are among the leading causes of death in the U.S.

Common medical errors

Although many health care facilities have protocols and procedures in place to prevent medical mistakes, there are numerous such occurrences that regularly happen in doctors' offices, hospitals and other medical facilities. Some of the most common of these types of medical negligence include the following:

· Administering the wrong medication or dosage

· Failing to adequately prepare patients for procedures

· Neglecting to act on test results or otherwise delaying treatment

· Allowing the development of infections or blood clots

· Failing to protect patients from falls

· Unintentionally leaving a foreign object inside patients during surgery

Additionally, health care professionals may make technical errors. These may include such issues as inadvertently nicking an artery or other internal structure during a surgical procedure. While accidental, medical mistakes may result in patients needing additional medical treatment.

Studying the prevalence of fatal medical mistakes

Publishing their findings in The BMJ, a group of patient safety experts with Johns Hopkins conducted a study to understand the incidence rate for deaths resulting from lapses in health care. Performing a comprehensive analysis and extrapolating on the data from four previously conducted studies, they used the hospital admission rates for 2013 to estimate how many patients die annually as a result of medical mistakes.

Through their calculations, the researchers estimate that medical errors cause 251,454 deaths each year in the U.S. This would place medical mistakes as the third leading cause of death in the country, behind only heart disease and cancer. Those conditions resulted in 614,348 and 591,699 deaths respectively in 2014 alone.

Shortcomings in vital statistics tracking

Currently, the CDC's mortality statistics are based on the International Classification of Diseases, or ICD, codes that are used on death certificates throughout the U.S. Developed to classify symptoms, diagnoses and medical procedures, ICD codes may indicate the reasons for which people initially sought medical treatment. They may not, however, specify that a medical error or some other human or system mistake resulted in the death.

Based on their findings, the study's authors have called on the CDC to make changes to their vital statistics tracking methods to get a more accurate measurement of the occurrence of fatal medical mistakes. To this end, they suggest that medical errors should be added to the agency's list of top mortality causes in the country. It is believed that with a clearer idea of the problem, patients will be more aware and better able to protect themselves and additional efforts may be placed on preventing such mistakes whenever possible.

Consulting with a legal representative

Medical mistakes may have devastating consequences for patients in Ohio, as well as for their families. The sudden loss of a loved one or a worsened medical condition resulting from a doctor error may leave people facing undue expenses, such as funerary costs or medical bills, and a temporary or permanent loss of income. Depending on the circumstances, the health care professionals or facilities responsible for such mistakes may be held liable for the resulting damages. Therefore, those who have experienced such situations may find it helpful to discuss their rights and options for pursuing compensation with an attorney.