200,000 Patients a Year Die from Medical Mistakes and Preventable Infections
David MittlemanAugust 17, 2009 12:36 PM
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According to a recent investigation conducted by the Hearst Corporation, an estimated 98,000 people die each year from preventable medical errors. In fact, more Americans die each month from preventable medical injuries than the number that died in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Furthermore, the Centers for Disease Control reports that 99,000 patients die a year from preventable hospital-acquired infections. The CDC acknowledges that many medical errors go unreported and if they were to obtain a full count of all deaths caused by medical mistakes and/or preventable infections, the number would exceed the list of accidental deaths in the U.S. caused by car collisions, poisoning, firearms and falls.
The Hearst analysts that conducted the study worked in conjunction with Niagara Health Quality Coalition, an independent nonprofit. Specifically, Hearst and Niagara Health Quality Coalition looked at patient discharge data from 1,832 medical facilities in New York, Washington, California, and Texas in the areas of preventable deaths, incomplete reporting and the secrecy involved in medical error deaths.
Ten years ago, a federal report entitled “To Err is Human” was released that blamed 98,000 deaths in the U.S. each year on preventable medical errors. In response, the Institute of Medicine called on the medical community to cut the number of medical error deaths in half within five years. However, the Hearst investigation showed that no progress has been made in improving patient safety through accountability. In fact, the American Medical Association and the American Hospital Association worked against President Bill Clinton when he attempted to implement a mandatory reporting system. It is estimated that both organizations spent $81 million in lobbying efforts between 2000 and 2001 to prevent such a system from taking root. Moreover, Hearst also believes that the problem could be worse than is readily apparent: twenty states have no medical error reporting, five are “attempting” to create a reporting system, and five states allow doctors to “voluntarily” report medical errors. Furthermore, of the twenty states that do require reporting, the standards vary considerably and there is nonexistent enforcement. Please visit the Hearst interactive map to see how your state is doing to create a reporting system.
The investigation also provides in-depth profiles of over 30 individuals, ranging from newborn to 91 years old. Many are still alive and suffer from injuries and emotional distress caused by medical errors, while others were not so lucky and died as a result of preventable medical mistakes.