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Preventable Medical Error Is Third-Leading Cause of Death in the U.S.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of Americans are seriously injured or killed by preventable medical errors. According to the Miami Herald, a recent Consumer Reports safety ranking, which compares more than 2,500 hospitals across the United States, ranked several Florida hospitals at the bottom of patient safety rankings.

A variety of factors contributed to the Consumer Reports safety score, including re-admissions, overuse of CT scans, hospital-acquired infections, communicating with patients about medications and discharge instructions, and patient mortality.

The nonprofit Patient Safety America reports that preventable medical errors in hospitals contribute to the death of 440,000 patients in the United States each year. That makes preventable medical error the third-leading cause of death, behind only heart disease and cancer, according to Consumer Reports.

The Tampa Bay Times reports that Florida’s highest-ranked hospital is Parrish Medical Center in Titusville, which received a score of 68, while the highest-ranked hospital in the United States is Miles Memorial Hospital in Maine, which received a score of 78.

The difference between high-scoring hospitals and low-scoring hospitals is not insignificant, as the Times explains. According to Consumer Reports, in top-rated hospitals, for every 1,000 surgical patients who develop serious complications, 87 or fewer die. In low-rated hospitals, however, more than 132 die.

Other alarming statistics regarding preventable medical errors include the following, per the American Association for Justice:

  • One out of every three patients admitted to the hospital will experience a medical error.
  • “Never events”—defined as serious and largely preventable safety incidents that should not happen if proper preventative measures are implemented—are occurring at a rate of up to 40 times per week in U.S. hospitals.

Despite the aforementioned information and statistics, Americans generally underestimate the extent of preventable medical errors and are largely unaware of how pervasive the problem is. According to a survey, the results of which come via the American Association for Justice, half of respondents believed that 5,000 or fewer deaths per year result from medical errors. That is, of course, significantly lower than the 440,000 deaths per year reported by Patient Safety America.

A related problem is the fact that many people seem to believe that genuine medical errors are rare and that medical negligence lawsuits are far too common and often meritless. On the contrary, however, the reality is that hundreds of thousands of people die from preventable medical errors each year and that comparatively few medical malpractice lawsuits are filed.

The American Association for Justice provides information to illustrate that point:

  • Preventable medical errors cost the United States tens of billions of dollars per year.
  • Medical negligence lawsuits constitute one-half of one percent of total health care costs.
  • Medical negligence cases constitute less than two percent of all civil cases.
  • Harvard University researchers found that 97 percent of medical malpractice cases were meritorious.

In light of these findings, patient safety advocates are calling for increased awareness and transparency so that medical errors in Florida and the United States as a whole can be reduced and prevented. Contact Tampa area law firm Reed & Reed who are experienced medical malpractice attorneys for more information.


Brandon Personal Injury
Reed & Reed, Attorneys at Law, is located in Brandon, FL and serves clients in
and around Brandon, Tampa, Apollo Beach, Sydney, Gibsonton, Balm, Valrico, Wimauma, Sun City Center, Lithia, Ruskin, Durant, and Hillsborough County.

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