Medical Error Is the #3 Cause of Death in America

By Aaron Jophlin,
Bell Legal Group

When you think of the leading causes of death in the country, most people think of heart disease, cancer, stroke, even accidents. Few people realize that one of the top killers is also one of the most insidious and least talked about: medical error and negligence. A new study by patient-safety researchers (as reported in the Washington Post and NPR on May 3, 2016), throws light on a growing epidemic that is fast-becoming one of the health industries dirty little secrets. The new study estimates that some 251,000 people die from medical error each year—that equates to roughly 700 deaths a day, and nearly 10% of all deaths in the U.S. annually. According to Johns Hopkins’ professor Martin Makary (who lead the in-depth study), “people are dying from the care that they receive rather than the disease for which they are seeking care.”

Medical error is the #3 cause of death in America

A system that perpetuates mistakes

Medical negligence and error are tricky topics. The causes, according to Makary, can be as varied as they are disconcerting: under-treatment, over-treatment, diagnostic errors, medicinal overdosing, neglect (“falling through the cracks”), or patient handoff (a nurse or doctor passing along your information to someone else). Perhaps most disturbing of all is the fact that medical error is seldom talked about. Makary refers to it as a “silent epidemic” that hospitals and medical professionals avoid discussing at all costs. “We need to create an open and honest culture about things that go wrong in medicine,” Makary says. “Just like aviation has created a culture where every pilot in the world will learn the lessons from a single crash.”

Bring medical error out into the open

Sunlight is often the best antiseptic. And bringing this story out into the light is critical to change. If the realities and horrors of medical negligence are not discussed out in the open, then the epidemic will continue. For starters, victims and families need to come forward and be heard. Medical error should be—and desperately deserves to be—listed as an actual cause of death by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), which inexplicably, it is not. “To have a methodological flaw,” Makary says, “where the third leading cause of death—that is, medical care gone wrong—is not even listed, it results in a tremendous under-recognition, underfunding, and under appreciation of the magnitude of the problem from every level, from research priorities to public awareness among patients.”

Do you have a medical error case?

If you have any suspicions that you or someone in your family has been victimized by medical negligence, we would like to know. Now’s the time to do something about it—now’s the time to expose the error. After all, you can’t seek justice if you don’t speak up. If you or someone you know has been a victim, this is your opportunity to come forward. Please contact us today. We really want to hear your story.

Contact us today

843-546-2408 •

To learn more about this topic, please refer to the following articles:

The Washington Post – Researchers: Medical errors now third leading cause of death in United States
NPR – Medical Errors Are No. 3 Cause Of U.S Deaths, Researchers Say