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Study: Medical Error is the Third Leading Cause of Death in the U.S.

overworked doctor in laboratory

“We are burying a population the size of Miami every year from medical errors that can be prevented.” —Leah Binder, The Leapfrog Group

Medical error is the third leading cause of death in the United States, according to a new study published in the medical journal BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal).1 The study, co-authored by Martin Makary, MD, professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and research fellow Michael Daniel, also of Johns Hopkins, defines medical error as:

an unintended act (either of omission or commission) or one that does not achieve its intended outcome, the failure of a planned action to be completed as intended (an error of execution), the use of a wrong plan to achieve an aim (an error of planning), or a deviation from the process of care that may or may not cause harm to the patient.1

In their analysis, Dr. Makary and Daniel found that medical error claims approximately 251,000 lives annually, surpassed only by heart disease (614,348) and cancer (591,699) as the deadliest killers and well ahead of respiratory disease (147,101), accidents (136,053), stroke (133,103), Alzheimer’s (93,541), diabetes (76,488), influenza and pneumonia (55,227), kidney disease (48,146), and suicide (42,773).2

Dr. Makary was quoted by The Washington Post as saying, “It boils down to people dying from the care that they receive rather than the disease for which they are seeking care.”2

The Post article also quoted Frederick van Pelt, MD of healthcare consultancy The Chartis Group of Chicago, IL, who noted that medical error also accounts for a large number of “severe patient injuries.” According to Dr. Pelt, “Some estimates would put this number at 40 times the death rate.”

If accurate, such estimates would put the number of severe injuries due to medical error in the U.S. at more than 10 million per year.

The number of deaths that Dr. Makary and Daniel attribute to medical error are significantly higher than previous estimates by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), which the Hopkins researchers acknowledge as the most commonly cited. In their study, Dr. Makary and Daniel point to a 1999 IOM report which “describes an incidence of 44,000-98,000 deaths annually.”1

But Dr. Makary and Daniel say the IOM study was “limited” and “outdated” and was not “based on primary research conducted by the institute but on the 1984 Harvard Medical Practice Study and the 1992 Utah and Colorado Study.”

The Makary/Daniel numbers, however, are significantly lower than the 440,000 deaths attributed to medical error by The Leapfrog Group of Washington, DC in its 2013 Hospital Safety Score survey.3

While the Leapfrog survey uses the term “hospital error” and, therefore, may have a broader definition of “medical error” than the study by Dr. Makary and Daniel, it is still worth noting. The bottom line is that an awful lot of Americans are needlessly dying at the hands of those who are charged with caring for them when they are ill or injured. According to the president and CEO of The Leapfrog Group, Leah Binder:

We are burying a population the size of Miami every year from medical errors that can be prevented. A number of hospitals have improved by one or even two grades, indicating hospitals are taking steps toward safer practices, but these efforts aren’t enough. During this time of rapid health care transformation, it’s vital that we work together to arm patients with the information they need and tell doctors and hospitals that the time for change is now.3

So what is the solution? According to Joseph Mercola, DO, there may not be an easy solution. Dr. Mercola has advised to “simply minimize your interactions with the conventional system.” He does not believe the “system” offers very much in terms of “prevention or treatment of chronic disease” anyway. He says, “More often than not, conventional strategies in no way shape or form address the underlying cause of your disease.”4

Given the high number of deaths and injuries being caused by the medical system in our country, the basis for Dr. Mercola’s counsel does not appear to be unfounded.


3 Responses to Study: Medical Error is the Third Leading Cause of Death in the U.S.

  1. Mark Reply

    May 10, 2016 at 6:51 am

    One of the definitions of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. This country IS INSANE if you haven’t realized it yet. People vote a 2 party system (which really is 2 sides of the same coin) expecting things to change and in my 65 years I have watched very carefully how NOTHING changes. We have an unethical, highly corrupt so-called medical system. It is NOT interested in healing patients, only keeping them minimally well so they stay patients in the future. The system deals with sickness induced by chemicals pollution at all levels, dead, pesticide (add to that GMO) laden food; food designed to KEEP you sick. ALL politicians should be hung (the remedy according to the Constitution) for treason as THEY are the ones who VOTE for bills that go against life.
    Obozocare was a lie to begin with – fraud pure and simple. It was “sold” to the public and politicians as health care……….but guess what? IT”S ANOTHER TAX!!! according to SCOTUS. BAIT & SWITCH tactics. And Pelosi???? “Well we have to pass the bill before we can read it.” WOULD YOU SIGN YOUR NAME TO A “CONTRACT” WITHOUT YOU OR AN ATTORNEY READING IT TO UNDERSTAND IT AND BEING LEGALLY BOUND TO IT?
    I lived abroad for many years, experienced several health care systems in other countries. This country does NOT have a “health” care system. It is devoted to sickness and how to make a buck.
    I am a health care practitioner in the field of nutrition. In my 30 years as such, I have been astounded by the ignorance of standard medical doctors and even a few “alternative” docs. Gone are the days when a doctor could diagnose an illness by touch, observation and a few simple tests. Now a doctor cannot figure out too much without having the patient go through very extensive testing and procedures that cost an arm and a leg. Even then, I have worked with patients, whose docs still didn’t know what was wrong with them; telling them good luck while sending them home.
    Behind this “health care” system is the CARTEL of pharmaceutical drug companies, (fast)food companies, chemical companies and medical associations and federal government agencies. They have conspired to keep everyone sick and dying to make a few bucks. Don’t believe me? Get off the sofa and Do the research. Due to time and space I cannot list all of what I have. But it’s ALL there.

  2. Bozewell Reply

    May 10, 2016 at 11:55 am

    I totally agree with you Mark and have for a couple of decades. I am amazed how the masses can not see or understand the lack of integrity in our systems. They are so impressed by the “big boys” and will believe and obey just like sheepe. Fortunately whether one likes or will vote for Trump, I think he has caused many people to open their eyes and think for themselves.

  3. Balsam Mommy Reply

    May 10, 2016 at 6:22 pm

    WOW that’s your answer?!!!
    No way!
    Constitution Party!
    And go see a Chiropractor first before your MD!

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