Did you know that medical malpractice is the third-leading cause of death within the United States? Most people would never assume it was this prevalent, but a study at Johns Hopkins in 2018 showed that around 250,000 people die annually as a result of medical errors in the United States each year.
With that many patient deaths, medical errors rank third as a leading cause of death just behind heart disease and cancer. This draws attention to how important it is to have better patient safety protocols and to take steps to protect yourself when you are a patient.
Studies show high numbers of deaths from medical errors in the United States
Johns Hopkins was not the only facility to do research into this issue. Other studies have found that up to 440,000 pass away annually due to medical mistakes.
This may seem like a large discrepancy in the numbers, and it is. This is because coroners, medical examiners, physicians and funeral directors aren’t likely to note human error. Instead, they notate the actual mechanical cause of death, such as a heart attack or anaphylaxis. To address this issue, the authors of the Johns Hopkins study have asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to post the correct statistics on death certificates.
How can you protect yourself against medical errors?
The first thing all patients need to learn to do is to ask questions. If anything seems unusual or a plan of action doesn’t seem right to you, ask. Learn more about the treatments you’ll receive, and get a second opinion.
If you’re unsure if you’ll understand or be able to process everything a doctor is telling you, take an advocate. A friend or family member may help you remember to ask more questions or even suggest some that you hadn’t thought of.
Finally, make sure all of your medical information is easily accessible. You should always know which medications you’re taking, which medical conditions you have, your allergies and other data that can help providers avoid interactions or allergic reactions. Keep this in an app or on paper with you at all times.
Mistakes happen, but they far too common. Your life could be at risk if a mistake is made, so don’t be afraid to take control of your care.