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Number of deaths from medical malpractice in question

When people go to a hospital, they expect that doctors and other medical staff will take all reasonable steps to help them with their illness or injury. People in the Charleston area who have to undergo surgery, for example, may understand that the procedure involves some risks, but they expect the surgeon to mitigate those risks as much as possible. Likewise, patients likely do not expect that a preventable mistake could cost them their lives.

According to a study from Johns Hopkins, however, medical errors may be the third leading cause of death in the Unites States, behind only heart disease and cancer. The doctors who conducted the study analyzed other studies and opined that those prior studies underestimated the number of deaths from medical errors. Hence, the Johns Hopkins study concludes that at least a quarter of one million people die each year from such mistakes.

The doctors who led the study cited many reasons why other estimates were understating the number of deaths from medical errors. One of those reasons is that death certificates don't capture sufficient data to measure medical error as a reason for death.

Doctors and other healthcare practitioners are only human, and they do make mistakes. When such a mistake causes a person to die, the family of the victim can initiate a legal cause of action for wrongful death. If some kind of medical malpractice was indeed a cause of the death, the family can recover compensation. This is true whether the mistake was some kind of surgical error, or one involving an incorrect diagnosis and treatment.

By continuing to analyze medical errors, like the doctors did in this study, the healthcare industry will hopefully be able to find new ways to prevent future mistakes. In the meantime, people who suffer these kinds of injuries, and their family members, should understand their legal options.

Source: CNN, "Medical errors may be third leading cause of death in the U.S.," Jen Christensen and Elizabeth Cohen, May 3, 2016

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