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3rd Top Cause of Death: Medical Errors


A new paper reveals that 250,000 deaths per year in the U.S. are caused by medical error.

A new study published in BMJ Tuesday suggests that if experts classified medical error as a disease, it would be the third leading cause of death in the United States.

Helmed by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, the paper estimates that medical errors cause 250,000 deaths a year, surpassing chronic lower respiratory diseases—the third leading cause of death—by more than 100,000. The authors blame limitations in death certificates for the lack of accurate data on the topic, and suggest the way fatalities are reported be revised.

Medical error is loosely defined as a “preventable adverse effect of care, whether or not it is evident or harmful to the patient.” The authors of the BMJ study cite specific types of error, which include “the use of a wrong plan,” “the failure of a planned action to be completed as intended,” and “an unintended act.”

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Additional reading:  Are Medical Errors Deadlier Than Strokes and Alzheimer’s?


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