Researchers urge for new way of tracking medical error deaths

New data released from a study led by researchers at Johns Hopkins University indicate medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the U.S.

New Jersey residents understandably look to their physicians and other health care providers to help them enjoy or regain health. However, the trust that is placed in the hands of these professionals may or may not always be warranted. Newly published research led by a team of doctors from Johns Hopkins University solidly place medical errors in the number three position on the list of leading causes of death in the United States.

According to the Johns Hopkins University Hub, the findings of the new study have led some to call for a different approach to tracking deaths attributed to medical mistakes. They assert that this need is vital in order to more accurately understand the public health risks that patients face.

Proposal not agreed to by all parties

National Public Radio reports that despite the fact that respected physicians are recommending a change in how medical mistake deaths are recorded, there are others who do not believe a change is necessary. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has indicated that the current method of tracking these deaths is sufficient.

The study researchers allege that a reliance on medical billing codes is the standard now and these codes do not offer an option for errors. The CDC, on the other hand, believes that what is needed is to have physicians better educated about the benefits of reporting errors when they actually happen.

Medical errors as a cause of death

CBS News explains that the recent research highlights the severity of medical errors by noting that only cancer and heart disease claim more lives in the nation every year. With more than 251,000 deaths per year, medical mistakes occupy the number three position in the list of top causes of death. The number two position is occupied by cancer with roughly 548,000 deaths. With approximately 611,000 deaths, heart disease is the leading killer in the United States each year.

The Johns Hopkins University study relied on data collected between 2000 and 2008. Of the more than 35 million deaths, nine and a half percent were attributed to medical errors. In contrast to the 251,000 error-related deaths, respiratory disease claimed 150,000 lives.

Many types of errors

Patients should know that while surgical errors or missed diagnoses by individual providers can lead to mistakes, these are not the only types of mistakes. Even when a doctor takes the proper actions and makes the right decisions, coordination of care efforts or procedural issues can introduce errors.

Anyone in New Jersey who believes that they or a loved one has been affected by any form of medical error should contact an attorney. Getting help before a statute of limitation runs out is important to preserve the opportunity to seek compensation.