Furr & Henshaw
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Avoidable deaths in hospitals more common than expected

South Carolina residents may be alarmed to learn that the number of deaths caused by hospital mistakes has been greatly underestimated. While not all mistakes made in hospitals lead to harm to patients or are considered medical malpractice, the fact is that even low estimates state that nearly 100,000 people die annually as a result of errors made by hospital workers. This number comes from the Institute of Medicine's 1999 "To Err is Human" report. According to newer studies, however, that number sorely understates the number of avoidable deaths.

In 2010, the Office of Inspector General for Health and Human Services reported that about 180,000 Medicare patients alone die every year as a result of bad care in hospitals. However, that number is even called into question by a study published in the Journal of Patient Safety in 2013. This study estimates that between 210,000 and 440,000 patients die each year as a result of avoidable harm that was done to them during their stay in a hospital.

If this study is accurate, it would mean that medical mistakes are the third leading cause of death in the United States, surpassed only by cancer and heart disease. According to a review of the study by prominent patient safety researchers, the methods and the research behind it are credible.

Patients who go into a hospital for treatment should not have to worry that they will be neglected or receive sub-par care. If a patient or someone's family member has been harmed as a result of their stay in a hospital, they may have legal recourse. A lawyer could explain someone's rights and options for pursing compensation.

Source: Pro Publica, "How Many Die From Medical Mistakes in U.S. Hospitals?", Marshall Allen, September 19, 2013

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