It’s long been known that medical mistakes lead to serious harm, resulting in terrible injuries and even death to unsuspecting patients. Though families might expect harm to occur due to unexpected health emergencies, it’s often hard to accept that a family member was harmed at the hands of trained medical professionals, the very people entrusted to help. Just how bad the problem was has been difficult to ascertain, though researchers at Johns Hopkins say they think they might have some idea.
According to a recently published study by experts at Johns Hopkins School Medicine, medical errors deserve to be deemed the third leading cause of death for those living in the United States. If that’s true, then that places medical errors behind only heart disease and cancer as the biggest killers of Americans. Both heart disease and cancer are responsible for taking the lives of about 600,000 people each and every year. Researchers estimate that medical errors were responsible for killing 250,000 people each year. The fourth leading cause of death (formerly third) is respiratory disease, which kills more than 150,000 people each year.
Though all deaths are tragic, what makes medical errors different than cancer, heart disease or respiratory illness is that medical errors are preventable. Cancer, despite its horror, is no one’s fault. The same cannot be said for medical mistakes. Medical errors are by their very nature the result of someone’s ignorance, carelessness or negligence. If nurses, doctors and hospitals were more rigorous about tackling these problems, by providing training, insisting on accountability and becoming better listeners, then potentially hundreds of thousands of lives could be saved each and every year.