Did you know that medical malpractice is the third leading cause of death in the United States? It is truly frightening to think that errors by health care providers are behind only heart disease and cancer as killers. The statistic comes from a 2013 study published in the Journal of Patient Safety, which estimated that between 210,000 and 440,000 patients die each year at least in part as the result of a medical mistake.
Here are some other facts you should know about medical malpractice.
Over half of all malpractice-related injuries are the result of diagnosis and treatment errors. Other common types of medical malpractice are categorized into:
- 23 percent: surgical mistakes and incorrect procedures
- 10 percent: obstetrics care and childbirth injuries
- 5 percent: medication errors, interactions and dosing
- 5 percent: anesthesia administration errors
- 4 percent: monitoring patient status and vitals
- 2 percent: equipment deficiencies and product defects
In 2013, a total of 3.7 billion dollars was paid out in medical malpractice claims. Women received 57 percent of the total; men received 43 percent.
Serious medical errors may occur even more often than is now known. Errors are often underreported, and there is no national system to track them. However, the estimates that we do have suggest an enormous problem. According to a 2010 report by the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services, one in seven hospitalized Medicare patients experience a serious medical error, and 180,000 Medicare patients per year in Medicare alone died in part because of inadequate or flawed hospital care.
What can patients do? First, when you undergo medical treatment, be your own advocate. Check that your charts and medications are correct, and make sure your doctor knows pertinent facts about your medical history. Also, if you are injured as the result of medical malpractice, know that you have the legal right to seek compensation through a lawsuit.