Hospital errors may be the third most common cause of death in the U.S., according to a new study in the Journal of Patient Safety. The study estimates that as many as 440,000 deaths occur because of negligent care in hospitals every year.
That is far more than the 98,000 deaths estimated in an often-cited 1999 report by the called “To Err is Human” by the Institute of Medicine. Prominent researchers are deeming the methods used in the new study credible.
Performed by NASA toxicologist John T. James, the study used what’s called the Global Trigger Tool to scan medical records for signs of infection, injury or error. Lethal adverse events were found in 1.4% of cases. When applied to the roughly 34 million annual hospitalizations, this means 210,000 deaths each year. But James says that this is a low estimate because the Global Trigger Tool does not catch errors caused by a lack of treatment, and because medical records are known to be missing evidence of harm and diagnostic errors.
Even Dr. Lucian Leape, a Harvard doctor referred to as the “father of patient safety,” expressed confidence in the estimate offered by James, the nonprofit journalism collective ProPublica reported. It is important to note that Leape was a member the committee that wrote “To Err is Human.”
How Hospital Errors Occur
There are many ways in which a hospital can fail a patient. Here are a few of the more common mistakes that threaten the lives of the people who depend on hospitals to help them:
- Misdiagnosis, the most common and most deadly medical error
- Surgical errors, or “never events”
- Nurses failing to report medical emergencies
- Errors in administering medication
- Diagnostic errors
This is not a comprehensive list, but just a few ways in which hospital faculty and staff may fail to meet the expected standard of care.
If you have been injured or have lost a loved one due to a hospital error in a Washington hospital — or even if you only suspect that an error was the cause — you should contact the Perey Law Group immediately. We are experienced with establishing negligence in medical malpractice and wrongful death cases, and we may be able to help get you the compensation you deserve. These mistakes are completely preventable and should not happen.