Medical Error Now the Third Leading Cause of Death in the U.S.

A study published by the BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal) on May 3, 2016, reports research findings that medical error is now the third leading cause of death in the United States.

The study, conducted by doctors at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, suggests that medical errors now kill more people than lower respiratory diseases like emphysema and bronchitis, moving medical error up to the third leading cause of death, right behind heart disease and cancer.

Through their analysis of four other studies examining death rate information, the Johns Hopkins report estimates there are at least 251,454 annual deaths due to medical errors in the United States.

The number of deaths translates to 9.5% of all deaths each year in the U.S. climbing dramatically from the 44,000 estimated in the 2000 Institute of Medicine report “To Err Is Human.”

The Johns Hopkins research includes everything from doctor error to more systemic issues such as communication breakdown occurring when patients are handed off from one department to another.

The authors believe the number is actually much higher, as medical errors taking place in doctors’ offices, homes and nursing homes are not counted in that total. Additionally, accurate transparent information about medical errors is not currently captured on death certificates, which are the documents the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) uses for ranking causes of death and setting health priorities.

According to Medical Malpractice attorney Eileen Kroll, a Partner in the law firm of Cochran, Kroll & Associates in Livonia, Michigan, “One of the most important aspects of this new report is that physicians are starting to recognize the impact medical errors have on human life and are actually urging the CDC to adopt ‘medical error’ as a legitimate cause of death, hopefully shining a light on this increasing problem and forcing hospitals and health care providers to enact and enforce improved safety standards.”

“A medical error,” states Kroll, who is also a Registered Nurse, “is any preventable complication stemming from a patient’s care, whether or not it is immediately evident or harmful to a patient. Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor, nurse, hospital or other medical provider makes a medical error which is contrary to the standard of care.”


Despite the frequency and severity of preventable medical errors, the state government and Michigan Courts have made the filing of Medical Malpractice claims exceedingly complicated, complex and expensive.

That is why it is essential to contact medical malpractice attorneys Cochran, Kroll & Associates, a highly experienced and uniquely qualified law firm, to investigate harm to yourself or a loved one as a result of a doctor or hospital’s medical error and to help navigate you through the complex legal process.

Eileen Kroll focuses her caseload on medical malpractice issues. She earned her BS in Nursing from Madonna University and her law degree from University of Detroit.

If you, or someone you know, have been the victim of medical error, please contact our office for a free, confidential review of your potential claim. You could be entitled to financial compensation.

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