Recently, patient safety experts at Johns Hopkins University conducted a study that generated some very concerning results. The safety experts analyzed data regarding medical death rates during an eight-year time frame. The study concluded that every year there are over 250,000 deaths in the United States that can be attributed to medical errors. This number accounts for 9.5 percent of deaths annually in the U.S.
These findings conflict with the results of a study published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to the Johns Hopkins researchers, the discrepancy is due to the CDC’s practice of not separately classifying medical errors on death certificates. The researchers are now advocating for an update in the classification criteria used on death certificates.
The researchers point out the fact that national mortality statistics are based on billing codes. These codes, first employed in 1949, have no mechanism to acknowledge if a death was related to faulty medical care.
But the researchers also put forth that the majority of these medical errors are not caused by doctors, but rather can be attributed to systemic issues such as fragmented insurance networks, unused or absent safety nets, badly coordinated care and other important procedures.
So while it may be comforting to learn that doctors are committing only a small percentage of medical errors, it is also unnerving to learn that so many systematic errors are occurring. Couple this with the manner in which fatal medical incidents are classified on death certificates, and you can see why it’s difficult to trace the true cause of a medical death.
If you need to get to the truth about a serious or fatal medical event, you may wish to contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney. An attorney can perform an investigation and, if circumstances merit, help you file a claim against any responsible parties.