A new study conducted by NASA toxicologist John T. James has estimated that between 210,000 and 440,000 deaths are caused each year by medical errors. This number is a dramatic rise from previous estimate in 1999 that reported up to 98,000 people died from hospital mistakes.
The new study shows that between 210,000 and 440,000 people who go to the hospital for care suffer some type of preventable harm that contributes to their death. The numbers were drawn from a review of medical records which were then reviewed by independent physicians. The more alarming part of this study shows that the actual number of deaths may be much greater because the study is not able to take into account deaths that were caused by a hospital failing to diagnose or provide treatment.
These new study numbers make hospital errors the third leading cause of death in the United States, after cancer and heart disease. James’ study also points out that hospital reporting systems and the peer review process only capture a fraction of negligent care.
James hopes the study will lead to more research on preventable measures for hospital mistakes as well as patient awareness, “All evidence points to the need for much more patient involvement in identifying harmful events and participating in rigorous follow-up investigations to identify root causes.”