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David Mittleman
David Mittleman
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Medical Errors on the Rise at an Alarming Rate Causing Death and Serious Injury in the U.S.

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Medical Errors Now Third  Leading Cause Of Death Only Behind Cancer and Heart Disease

This morning, on National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition,” John Hopkins researcher Dr. Martin Markary shared some alarming results from a recent study– that medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the U.S., but that this information goes largely untracked and unreported. “Based on an analysis of prior research, the Johns Hopkins study estimates that more than 250,000 Americans die each year from medical errors. On the CDC’s official list, that would rank just behind heart disease and cancer.”

The results of this study have been all over today’s news- check out ABC, CBS, and CNN coverage. I think that we’d all agree that patients and their families have a right to know if a medical error was involved in a patient’s death.  Another point raised by the John Hopkins team- billions of dollars in research funds are poured into the leading two causes of death- cancer and heart disease. As the third leading cause of death, the same funding should go to preventing and investigating these mistakes. Further reforms to health insurance could also be necessary- shouldn’t the responsible party cover end-of-life care for a patient whose death they caused?

The Johns Hopkins research team posted an “open letter” urging the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to change the way it collects vital health statistics every year, mainly by including “medical error” as a cause of death. When a patient dies directly from a medical error, it is not reported as a medical error on death certificates. This is as a result of a policy which only allows existing ICD billing codes to be placed on death certificates. As a result, deaths from medical errors are not tracked and reported by the CDC.

The shortcomings raised in this “open letter” are too frightening not to share:

“Currently, the CDC uses a deaths collection system that only tallies causes of death occurring from diseases, morbid conditions, and injuries. The information on death certificates filled out by physicians, funeral directors, medical examiners, and coroners form the basis of an annually updated list of the most common causes of death. We found that the death certificate form has a major limitation…causes of death not associated with an ICD code, such as human and system factors in medical care, are not captured…..the U.S. should be a leader in recognizing the role of medical error in national health statistics.”

In his interview, Dr. Markay indicated that the system is so flawed, if a patient visits a doctor for non-fatal cancer, and a medical error causes the patient’s death, the death certificate may still list “cancer.”

Michigan Legislature and Governors Have Compounded the Problem By Providing Doctors and Hospital With Privilege and Immunity

It’s not surprising that pexels-photo medical error can be devastating to a patient and their family. Even a good doctor, just like a good driver, can make a massive mistake and cost someone their life. Now that we know just how common these mistakes are, I’m more concerned than ever about the privileges provided to negligent medical professionals in Michigan.

Thanks to legislation and executive orders passed and sponsored largely by Republican governors and legislators, there are many hurdles to compensation for a medical mistake in Michigan. These include a short statute of limitations; a requirement that doctors be put on notice; plaintiff’s must hire an expert physician before a Plaintiff can file suit, and caps on damages.  These hurdles make finding representation difficult- as most injured plaintiffs don’t have the funds to go up against a doctor, hospital and their insurance company on their own.  As a result, negligent doctors and hospitals (and their insurance companies) are less likely to be held accountable for their mistakes, while the injured party lives with the mistake for the rest of their life.

I have spent over 30 years representing survivors and the families of victims of medical malpractice.  I won’t stop fighting for them and changing the laws that have been passed to protect doctors and hospitals from accountability for their errors.

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  1. jc says:
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    Dave, maybe you feel sorry for the patient who had a medical mishap. But what about the doctor who is wrongly accused of medical malpractice. In Ohio, 80% of medical malpractice cases which are filed are frivolous! Yet you complain that Michigan requires that the plaintiff get a medical expert witness to testify for the patient in order to file a lawsuit. That is just basic common sense, and even with that, still 80% of filed medical malpractice cases are frivolous! What about accountability for plaintiff attorneys who file frivolous malpractice cases?