The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) collects and publishes crucial data on a variety of U.S. health topics, including the top-ten causes of death in the United States. You will not see “medical error” on the CDC’s list, but that is very misleading. It’s not because the number of deaths due to medical error or medical malpractice did not make the top ten. It’s simply because when the CDC collects data on the cause of death, it doesn’t have a category for “medical error” at all.
Fortunately, researchers at Johns Hopkins recognized this blind spot in the CDC’s data collection methodology, and they did some digging on the number of medical errors that lead to the death of the patient. Their research established a figure that would put “medical error” well within the top ten.
Here is the CDC’s most current list (from 2020), along with Johns Hopkins estimate on annual deaths due to medical errors.
- Heart disease: 696,962
- Cancer: 602,350
- COVID-19: 350,831
- Medical error: 251,454
- Accidents (unintentional injuries): 200,955
- Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 160,264
- Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 152,657
- Alzheimer’s disease: 134,242
- Diabetes: 102,188
- Influenza and pneumonia: 53,544
Not all medical errors are medical malpractice, but it has been estimated that 70% of adverse events due to medical errors are preventable. Considering the scale of the problem, it’s curious why the CDC has not updated its list to include medical errors. According to Johns Hopkins, the CDC methodology for collecting data on causes of deaths in the U.S. was created in 1949, when the influence of medical errors on mortality was poorly understood. Even today, the CDC’s method for data collection on cause of death is based on medical billing codes, which do not provide any accurate way to include medical errors as a cause of death.
When You Need a Medical Malpractice Lawyer in Maryland
At Brown & Barron, LLC, our medical malpractice lawyers are committed advocates for patients who have suffered serious injuries and lost loved ones to medical errors or negligence. We believe it’s important to hold medical professionals accountable, so that no one must suffer these preventable injuries. Using our knowledge of the civil justice system, we aim to make a real difference in the lives of others – and push hospitals to do better for Maryland patients.
For a free and compassionate consultation, call us at (410) 698-1717.