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Medical Journal Study: “Medical Errors” Now #3 Cause of Death


The British Medical Journal published a new study this May revealing that “medical errors” are now the third-largest cause of death in the United States, only trailing heart disease (#1) and cancer (#2). The researchers noted that while the Center for Disease Control (CDC) keeps track of leading causes of death, there is no direct reporting of fatalities caused by medical mistakes. For example, when death certificates are completed, there is no category for listing “medical error” as a documented cause. Therefore, the researchers used other sources of data to determine that there were 251,454 identified deaths due to medical mistakes.

For the purposes of the study, a “medical error” was defined as:

“[A]n unintended act (either of omission or commission) or one that does not achieve its intended outcome, the failure of a planned action to be completed as intended (an error of execution), the use of a wrong plan to achieve an aim (an error of planning), or a deviation from the process of care that may or may not cause harm to the patient.”

With over a quarter-million documented instances, medical errors far outpaced other common causes by more than 100,000 fatalities. This included respiratory disease, accidents, suicide and others. The researchers called for more standardized reporting requirements for these types of fatalities, advising that that the current reporting methods may result in deaths caused by medical error to be miscategorized into one of the other causes. For example, a prescription error leading to a heart attack could be instead listed as a cardiac event.

New Jersey law recognizes a legal cause of action for victims of medical errors. When there is medical malpractice, the victim (or their families) may be entitled to compensation for any harms caused by treating physician(s). This typically requires showing that there was a deviation of the standard of care and proof of damages caused by that deviation.

At Levinson Axelrod, we take medical error claims seriously. We have an experienced team of medical malpractice attorneys who specialize in handling these types of complex cases. Whether it be a surgical mistake, failure to diagnose or drug error, our team handles these matters professionally from initial screening through conclusion.

One of the major differences you will find with our firm is that we rely on true medical expertise to determine if a case is potentially meritorious. One of our team, Dr. Rosemary McGeady, is a JD/MD, meaning that she is licensed both as a medical doctor and as an attorney-at-law. By utilizing her doctoral expertise in both the fields of medicine and law, we ensure that we properly identify both sets of issues in any given claim.

If you or a loved one has a potential medical error case and would like to speak to Dr. McGeady (or any member of our Medical Malpractice team) please contact us for a FREE case evaluation.

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