A study by BMJ now shows that medical error is greater than we thought. The doctors that we trust to heal us are now being put into a negative spotlight. It seems that medical error is the third cause of death in the US.
Medical errors are the cause of over 250.000 deaths every year. Of course, mistakes are inevitable. But given the huge number of deaths every year, it is obvious that there is a far bigger problem. Shockingly, medical error even surpassed chronic respiratory disease, as it is fourth on the list of top causes of death. The top killer is heart disease, and cancer comes second. So why are deaths by medical error so frequent? This is all due to incorrect medication, wrong diagnosis and medical mistakes. For example, patients have been known to be given treatment that they were allergic to. Many have died of infections that could have been prevented by the doctors. Still, experts say that it is not only the fault of doctors and nurses, as computers can be responsible as well.
This finding comes as a surprise because medical error is not included on the leading causes of death list. It is because the Centers for Disease Control collect only the code for the condition that was being treated. Mistakes, even though possibly listed on the death certificate, are not included in the data processed by the CDC.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine say that there should be more public attention drawn on the subject and research should also be invested in. They believe that a new question should be added on the death certificates. The question of whether preventable complications contributed to the death should be asked. Although an uncomfortable task to report that a person died on the cause of medical error, it is important to be reported. If it is known just how big the problem is, more resources can be put toward the safety of the patient.
There should also be a change of attitude. Doctors and patients should openly discuss these medical mistakes. But how much trust can we put into doctors now that we know that medical error is greater than we thought? For some, already suspicious, these new findings are even more alarming. Can we have enough faith to believe that our healer will not be our “killer”?
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