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Dying for Help: Preventable Adverse Events

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Cancer is the second. What is third? According to a recent study, the answer is preventable medical errors.

Since early in this century, the medical community and media has relied on statistics provided in a 1999 report authored by the Institute for Medicine (IOM). In that report, titled To Err Is Human, researchers estimated that 98,000 people die due to medical mistakes each year in the United States.

A new study published in the Journal of Patient Safety estimates the number of people who die in our country due to preventable adverse events (PAEs) is much larger: approximately 400,000 annually. Although the healthcare industry disputes this finding, a primary author of the earlier IOM study supports the figures proposed in the new study.

Types of common medical errors identified in the study include:

  • Mistakes of commission and omission
  • Errors in communication and context
  • Diagnostic error

Researching records from years 2008 through 2011, study author John T. James, PhD, used the Global Trigger Tool for Measuring Adverse Events created by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement to prepare the analysis. The Trigger Tool is a methodology that relies on clues or triggers to identify medical errors. Previous analyses of PAEs relied only on voluntary reports of medical errors or AEs.

The study notes that harmful consequences of medical errors may be clear immediately or not for years, as in cases of infection with hepatitis C through contaminated medical equipment or blood transfusions.

Commonly, patients are not informed of errors in their care unless clarification is unavoidable. Many times family members are left with the pain of losing a loved one and the void of unanswered questions. If you, or a loved one, are injured through medical negligence, talk to a skilled malpractice attorney in Tampa.

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