Every time we put our lives in the hands of a doctor or other medical professional, there is a chance that we won’t get the treatment we deserve. Doctors have a responsibility to do everything they can to make sure their patients get better, but, unfortunately, the surgery errors they oftentimes make result in a number of patient deaths.

A new study by The BMJ medical journal shows that medical errors are the third-leading cause of death in America. In 2013, more than 250,000 patients died due to these errors. Only heart disease and cancer, beat out medical errors, coming in first and second respectively on the list. 

Medical errors are typically categorized as unintended acts that result in unintended outcomes. A failure of planned action, going against the process of care, or errors in execution could all cause harm to the patient.

The authors of the study, both from Johns Hopkins University, based their findings on research studies starting in 1999. The authors believe that because most health providers don’t include medical error on death certificates, the number of patient deaths from medical errors has been underreported. Death certificates rely on official disease codes, and there is no code for medical error. Also, agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention do not include medical error in their cause of death rankings, as they base their rankings on death certificates.

The authors believe that medical errors need to be reported on death certificates. While human error is inevitable, making errors more visible and less frequent and having remedies available to save patients, can help make up for these errors.

Until changes can be made, though, innocent, unsuspecting patients will continue to suffer harm due to medical malpractice. Those who are injured or have lost a loved one to medical negligence may want to speak with an experienced attorney to learn what legal options are available to them.

Source: CNBC, “Medical errors are third-leading cause of death in United States: Study,” Dan Mangan, May 4, 2016