When we go into a hospital or a medical center or dentist’s office for treatment, we have a right to expect the medical professionals will do all they can to treat our problems and make us better.
Although most doctors and nurses do a great job, the chances of us being hurt or even killed by a mistake at a hospital are a lot higher than many people would like to believe. And all of the recent research suggests the incidence of medical malpractice in the United States is getting worse and worse. When you consider the level of investment in US hospitals and the fact we have one of the most sophisticated healthcare systems in the world, the figures are alarming.
A recent article in ProPublica suggested every time researchers look at the extent of the problem, the figures get grimmer.
Back 15 years ago, in 1999, the Institute of Medicine published the famous “To Err Is Human” report. It opened the eyes of the population to the extent of medical malpractice in the United States, by reporting that as many as 98,000 people a year die because of mistakes in hospitals. The number was controversial. It was even widely contested by the medical profession. Now it’s widely accepted.
In subsequent years, that number was adjusted upwards. In 2010, the Office of Inspector General for Health and Human Services stated that poor standards of care in hospitals contributed to the deaths of 180,000 patients in Medicare alone in any given year.
In 2013, a study by the Journal of Patient Safety suggested the number of medical malpractice victims is even higher – between 210,000 and 440,000 patients a year are dying unnecessarily in hospitals.
The figure is significant because it would make medical errors the third-leading cause of death in America, behind heart disease, which is the leading cause and cancer.
Significantly, it suggests mistakes and sloppiness in hospitals are killing more people every year than car accidents.
The new estimates were developed from the work of a toxicologist called John T. James who runs an advocacy organization called Patient Safety America. However, the American Hospital Association has maintained it has more confidence in the IOM’s 1999 estimate of 98,000 deaths.
ProPublica said its research included asking three well-known patient safety researchers to review James’ study. They found his methods to be credible.
We don’t know what the correct figure is but in some ways it’s less important than seeking to improve patient safety in hospitals. We will be looking at medical malpractice in all of its aspects in a series of blogs this month.
Medical malpractice cases present considerable challenges. In many cases, thousands of men and women don’t even know they were harmed by a mistake in a hospital. Your doctor may not tell you if the hospital has made a serious error. Patients who have been injured often have no idea how to go about proving their case. At Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers, our attorneys have decades of experience in holding negligent medical professionals accountable for their errors, and to compensate injured patients for the harm done to them. These cases can be difficult to litigate, and your injuries may have to be substantial to successfully sue a hospital. If you think you have been injured due to medical malpractice, call us today for a free consultation at 757.455.0077 or see our resources on medical malpractice cases in Virginia.