Medical Malpractice is the third leading cause of death in the US?!?
The CDC totals the leading causes of death every year, and here is the link for last year: As you can see, heart disease is number one with 611,105 deaths a year and all cancer totaled up is number two with 584,881. Just beneath as the third leading cause of death is medical mistakes or medical malpractice with up to 440,000.
Let’s put this in greater perspective, breast cancer caused 40,000 deaths last year. Breast cancer is a terrible disease that has been rightfully thrust into the national spotlight with fundraisers, ribbons and NFL athletes wearing pink. People have rallied and organized to fight this disease that kills 40,000.
Diabetes caused 69,000 deaths directly and was probably a comorbidity or joint cause of other problems. Again, national organizations and non-profits have done great work to help fight this problem that kills 69,000.
Lung cancer caused 158,000 deaths last year. Of course, the primary cause of lung cancer is smoking. Anti-smoking campaigns have been conducted for decades that are actually paid for by agreement with the tobacco industry. Literally billions of dollars are spent every year running ads to help reduce the incidence of smoking and lung cancer which kills 158,000 a year.
Medical malpractice kills around 400,000 people a year. 400,000 people is 10X the number killed by breast cancer. 10X. Why is the public silent? Where are the non-profit groups, the rallies? There has been some publicity on the issue. Forbes magazine had an article entitled, “Stunning News on Preventable Deaths in Hospitals” back in 2013. The Huffington Post had an article written by a Duke University professor entitled, “Why are Medical Mistakes Our Third Leading Cause of Death?”
In addition to the media, the CDC has released information on hospital-acquired infections. In one large survey, it was determined that 1 in 25 patients got an infection from the hospital and 75,000 patients died from these hospital infections in 2011. The Journal of the American Medical Association has even looked into the issue of malpractice. Just last month in August 2015, JAMA reported that 1 out of every 100,000 surgeries was done on the wrong body part. For example, surgeries were performed on the right leg when it was the left that was broken. Also, JAMA found that in 1 out of every 10,000 surgeries, foreign objects were left inside the body. So, sponges, scapels, scissors, etc., were left inside patients and sewed back up. While 1 out of 10,000 doesn’t sound like much, the numbers are staggering as there are so many surgeries being performed. This equals around 5,000 times a year, surgeons are leaving objects in patients.
These medical mistakes and medical malpractice cost in human lives but also in dollars. The Journal of Health Care Finance estimated that medical errors cost patients and the public around $20 billion. This $20 billion in costs is from medical bills from follow up treatment, lost wages from time out of work and even death so loss of future income. Some other authors estimate that this cost is much higher with some stating it can cost us $1 trillion annually.
In summary, medical malpractice is a huge problem in the US. It is the third-largest cause of death. Medical mistakes and errors cost the public billions of dollars. We need to address this issue like we do the other major causes of death and injury. We need to make our health system safer.