Preventable medical errors kill between 210,000 and 440,000 people

When people experience unexplained medical symptoms, most will contact their personal physician - or, in serious cases, head to the emergency room. When a patient is admitted to the hospital, he or she must rely on the physicians at the facility to provide the appropriate medical interventions. Unfortunately, in some cases, doctors make medical errors, often leading to serious consequences for the patients involved.

A study was recently published in the Journal of Patient Safety, which expounded on the frequency with which doctors make mistakes in hospitals across the United States. Previously, many believed that slightly less than 100,000 individuals were killed as a result of medical mistakes made in hospitals each year. Those statistics were originally published in 1999 after a study was conducted by the Institute of Medicine.

The most recent study has substantially altered the prior statistics regarding medical errors in hospitals. According to the study in the Journal of Patient Safety, the number of people who die as a result of avoidable mistakes made in hospitals each year is actually somewhere between 210,000 and 440,000 individuals.

The researchers looked at data from over 4,200 individuals who were treated in hospitals between 2002 and 2008. While reviewing the patient information, the researchers focused on whether the patients suffered "serious adverse events," a term used to describe harm that could have been avoided. In total, the study revealed that approximately 21 percent of the hospitalized patients suffered from a serious adverse event. In addition, approximately 1.4 percent of the patients died as a result of the preventable medical error.

As there are around 34 million instances in which individuals are hospitalized in the U.S. in a given year, the researchers concluded that a minimum of 210,000 people die as a result of avoidable medical errors each year. The researchers believe the numbers are actually higher, as there are cases in which missed diagnoses lead to a patient's death, but are not recorded as medical errors.

Be proactive when receiving medical care

Doctors are ultimately responsible for providing a proper standard of care for their patients. In some circumstances, you can take certain steps to attempt to protect yourself from physician error. For instance, never be hesitant to ask questions of your treating physician, particularly if you receive a diagnosis with which you are unfamiliar. If possible, seek the advice of a different physician, to obtain a second opinion, before moving forward with any serious medical interventions.

If you or a loved one has been harmed by a medical error, or if you have lost a loved one as a result of a preventable mistake, consult with a skilled personal injury attorney to ensure your rights are protected.