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The 4 Main Causes Of Preventable Medical Errors

Man with a white coat on

Preventable medical errors are a leading cause of death in the United States. Researchers at Johns Hopkins estimated that medical errors lead to more than 250,000 deaths per year, which would make medical error the fourth-leading cause of death in the U.S. That is more deaths due to medical error than motor vehicle accidents (43,458), breast cancer (42,297) or AIDS (16,516) combined.

No one doubts that the men and women who serve our society’s healthcare needs are largely skilled, dedicated, and honorable professionals. They are human, however, and humans make mistakes. That the healthcare system in the United States is designed for profit over quality of care, makes their jobs even tougher and makes mistakes more common than they should be. Fortunately, the medical community recognizes its flaws, and it is continuously analyzing why medical errors happens so they can learn from mistakes and work toward improving systems and outcomes. 

To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System is a landmark 2000 consensus study report by the Institute of Medicine on the systemic problem of injury-causing errors at medical facilities. In this analysis of various U.S. studies on the causes of medical errors, the Institute of Medicine determined that 70 percent of all medical errors are preventable. They also found the four main causes of medical errors in the U.S.

Percentage of Medical Errors by Type:

  1. Technical errors (44 percent)
  2. Diagnosis (17 percent)
  3. Failure to prevent injury (12 percent)
  4. Errors in the use of a drug (10 percent)

Source: To Err Is Human. Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Quality of Health Care in America; Kohn LT, Corrigan JM, Donaldson MS, editors. Washington (DC) 2000. 

One of the study’s main conclusions is that flaws in the “systems, processes, and conditions” at our nation’s medical facilities create an environment that is conducive to mistakes and does too little to prevent them. For example, the study notes “patient-care units in hospitals with certain full-strength drugs, even though they are toxic unless diluted, has resulted in deadly mistakes.”

These preventable injuries and deaths due to medical errors cost U.S. citizens between $17 billion and $29 billion in terms of lost income, lost household production, disability, and health care costs, according to estimates. When a family member is the victim of a medical error that leads to a serious injury or even death, the financial cost is the last thing on our minds. However, the reality is that the medical errors not only inflict pain and suffering, but they can also present enormous financial costs and losses to the victims and their families.

If you suspect a medical error caused a serious injury or medical issue for you or a loved one, you need legal advice from a law firm that specializes in medical malpractice. Brown & Barron has award-winning medical malpractice attorneys who will investigate the facts in your case, get to the truth, and recover a fair financial settlement that will enable your family to move forward and achieve justice. For a free consultation, please call Brown & Barron at (410) 698-1717 or contact us online by clicking here.

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