❝ Medical errors kill more people than car crashes or new disease outbreaks. They kill more people annually than breast cancer, AIDS, plane crashes, or drug overdoses. A new study estimates that they are the third leading cause of death in the United States, causing a quarter-million fatalities in 2013 alone.
❝ Patient safety researchers Marty Makary and Michael Daniel published new data in the British Medical Journal Tuesday suggesting that preventable medical errors resulted in 251,454 deaths in 2013. If that estimate is correct, the only bigger causes of death are heart disease and cancer.
The researchers worry, however, that their number is actually an underestimate — that medical harm kills even more patients than we’re currently able to count…
❝ When a patient dies as a result of medical harm, there’s no regulator that has to get notified — the hospital doesn’t send off paperwork about the error that occurred. Sometimes the information gets jotted down in the patient’s medical record, but even that is not a certainty.
This makes estimating the frequency of medical harm very difficult — and researchers generally believe that their figures underestimate the prevalence of harm. Their study uses data from four recent studies, all of which relied on medical records to estimate fatalities caused by medical errors. So the authors know that their estimate of fatalities misses any errors that weren’t captured in the medical record…
Still, they argue that there is value to putting out the best number they can find, as it can draw attention to the potential magnitude of a rarely discussed problem in health care…
❝ Some errors in medicine are stunningly bad….They are terrible and easy to recognize. But they aren’t what cause the most harm in American health care. It’s the less stunning, more quotidian mistakes that are the biggest killers. Take, for example, bed sores.
Bed sores are one of the more mundane complications of modern medicine. They’re called “pressure ulcers” in medical jargon, and are the open wounds that patients develop when they have not moved for long periods of time. The skin literally cracks under the pressure of the body weighing down on it.
A 2006 government survey found that more than half a million Americans are hospitalized annually for bed sores that are the result of other care they have received. And 58,000 of those patients die in the hospital during that admission.
Does this mean that pressure ulcers killed all those patients? No — these are typically frail, elderly patients battling other conditions ranging from pneumonia to dementia. But did bed sores mean some of these patients died who otherwise wouldn’t have? Experts say that’s almost certainly the case.
Like Congressional politics or the average conservative family values agenda – American health care is steadily devolving back towards the 19th Century. The ranks of sub-par management coupled with industrial-level greed is about as dangerous to the public good as populist politics shepherded by a media establishment with no backbone and fewer standards.