One of the interesting aspects of medical malpractice that is often overlooked is how it gets reported and studied by experts. Because a doctor's malpractice can open up both the doctor and a hospital to a costly lawsuit and earn them both a bad reputation, medical malpractice can go unreported, is often concealed, and is almost never admitted openly. As a result, studying the problem of medical malpractice is often difficult, and even determining the number of people who die every year from medical mistakes is a struggle.
That is why a recent study done by a pair of healthcare experts from Johns Hopkins University, Martin Makary and Michael Daniel, is so interesting and important. The piece begins with an analysis of why the process of putting together statistics concerning medical malpractice is so difficult. With these issues in mind, though, the authors are able to determine that medical malpractice is likely the third leading cause of death every year in the United States.
The Problems of Medical Malpractice Statistics
Every year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) puts together a list of the leading causes of death in the U.S. Their research is highly influential, and guides much of the discussion surrounding healthcare reform in the coming year.
However, the CDC's research is based off of data taken from death certificates, which are reported by healthcare professionals and coroners. An important element missing from these death certificates is whether the fatality was caused by a mistake made by a doctor or healthcare facility, or by other causes.
Lack of Statistics Leads to Inaccurate Studies in the Past
Because of the lack of data on medical malpractice, studies done on malpractice in the past have led to results that are woefully inaccurate. Even the authors of the studies have denounced their own findings, pointing to the lack of adequate statistics on which to base their research.
Medical Malpractice is Likely the Third Leading Cause of Death in the U.S.
In their recent study, Makary and Daniel analyzed data from prior studies, and found that medical errors and outright malpractice were likely the cause of over 251,000 deaths in 2013. This high number puts medical malpractice behind only cancer (which causes 585,000 deaths a year in the U.S.) and heart disease (611,000) as the leading causes of fatality in the United States in a given year.
Despite such a high number, Makary and Daniel state that it is likely still too low. The data that they were able to analyze only counts inpatient deaths, meaning any malpractice committed on patients at home or as an outpatient would not have been recorded.
Baltimore Medical Malpractice Attorneys
The high number reported in the study does not come as a surprise to the medical malpractice attorneys at Gilman & Bedigian. We handle medical malpractice claims on a constant basis, and are fully aware of how often they happen in the U.S. healthcare system.
If you or someone you love have been hurt by the negligence of a doctor or other healthcare professional, contact our law office at (800) 529-6162 or contact us online.