Medical Errors Are the Third Leading Cause of Death in the US

In 1999, the Institute of Medicine published a report that 98,000 people die each year from preventable medical errors. 15 years later, the Journal of Patient Safety estimates the death toll to be between 200,000 and 400,000 each year. In spite of the Institute of Medicine’s findings in 1999, the problem has become epidemic in this country. Tort reform, considered to be the culprit in rising medical costs, has not been the cure-all insurance industry experts said it would be. In addition to the tragic toll of human life, the financial costs of medical errors is staggering. Bob Buckley, writing in the Examiner, noted “This is why the Senate Committee on Primary Health and Aging chaired by Bernie Sanders of Vermont convened in July to consider this issue. The cost in human lives is staggering, but the financial cost of preventable medical errors is also overwhelming. One public study estimated that the financial costs exceed $17 billion annually. Thus, preventable medical errors not only impact the victims of such errors, the cost of our own health care increases because of these costs. According to the Journal of Health Care Finance, the indirect costs of all medical errors cost nearly $1 trillion each year.” Preventable medical errors include infections, preventable blood clots, adverse drug events, falls, overexposure to medical radiation, surgical errors and diagnostic errors. It is well past time to put an end to these preventable medical errors that are costing us hundreds of thousands of lives each year. It is time to stop blaming lawyers and the judicial system and start making the healthcare system accountable to the public.