The Journal on Patient Safety recently confirmed that over 440,000 people die every year because of preventable medical errors. Every year, preventable medical errors needlessly kill the equivalent of the population of Atlanta, Georgia. Put another way, that's like taking Boise, Idaho and Madison, Wisconsin and erasing them from the map.
We previously reported that medical malpractice in hospitals was the sixth leading cause of death in America. The Archives of Surgery recently reported that studies of wrong site, wrong surgery, wrong patient procedures show that "never events" are happening at an alarming rate of up to 40 times per week in U.S. hospitals. One of three hospital patients will experience a medical error, but not necessarily a fatal one.
If we include all forms of preventable medical errors, regardless of where they occur, medical malpractice is the third leading cause of death in America-right behind heart disease and cancer. Preventable medical errors cause more deaths than strokes, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, kidney disease, flu, pneumonia, and suicide...combined!
Let that sink in.
The Institute of Medicine reports that preventable medical errors cost our country tens of billions of dollars a year; an amount that would land preventable medical errors in the top 100 of countries based on gross domestic product.
Despite this serious epidemic, lobby groups for hospitals, doctors, and malpractice insurers continue to draw the attention of the U.S. Congress and state legislatures throughout the country, who then work together to limit accountability and access to the civil justice system. The lobby groups exaggerate the impact of attempts to hold health care providers accountable. The National Center for State Courts reports that medical malpractice cases represent well under 2 percent of all civil cases, which comprises only one-half of one percent of all health care costs according to the Congressional Budget Office. Moreover, the New England Journal of Medicine reported that Harvard researchers found that 97 percent of cases were meritorious, concluding, "Portraits of a malpractice system that is stricken with frivolous litigation are overblown."
Lawyers like Harris Powers & Cunningham seek to further the goals of our civil justice system; helping injured patients hold negligent health care providers accountable for preventable medical errors that cause harm or kill loved ones. We should embrace accountability in our health care system because it provides an incentive to improve patient care.