Medical Errors Ranked as Third Leading Cause of Death in U.S.


Researchers with Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine released a study yesterday showing that medical errors are responsible for more than a quarter million deaths each year. The report was published in The BMJ, and was based on an in depth analysis of eight years of death records. The study’s calculation of “medical care gone awry” ranks medical errors as the third leading cause death in the United States, more than the number of deaths from any major medical condition except heart disease or cancer.

Dr. Martin Makary, lead author of the study and professor of Surgery and Health Policy and Management at Johns Hopkins University, said in an interview with ABC News that he hoped the study would reveal how much needs to be done to address patient safety. "I, like many doctors, have been aware that people die from fragmented care, diagnostic errors, preventable complications and the problem is serious," said Makary. Medication errors and communication breakdowns were also cited in the report as problems needing to be addressed.

“If you had this many deaths in the aviation industry … you’d shut it down,” said Dr. David Classen, patient safety expert and associate professor at University of Utah. “It’s amazing that in all these other industries we never tolerate this kind of death.”

Both Makary and Classen stressed the importance of patients advocating for themselves in the hospital by asking questions, and both recommend having family members or other caregivers go to a hospital with a patient.

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