In 1999, a study by the Institute of Medicine shocked Americans by claiming that 98,000 people died annually from preventable hospital errors. In a new report just published in the Journal of Patient Safety, preventable medical errors account for an alarming 440,000 deaths each year – a number equaling the populations Atlanta, Miami or Oakland – and now represent the third leading causing death in the United States

As reported on, the new study utilized more definitive information and better research techniques to calculate the number of hospital deaths unrelated to the patient’s initial hospitalization. The types of mistakes and negligence the study revealed:

  • Objects left inside patients during surgery, later causing infection
  • Medication dosing errors
  • Contaminating medical equipment

Who pays the costs for these hospitals mistakes? Certainly the patients and their families pay the highest toll, suffering the pain and loss associated with the aftermath of such carelessness, and they often are forced to take legal action. But other patients, taxpayers, and business owners bear the financial burden, too.

Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that employers pay an extra $39,000 every time an employee suffers from a surgical site infection. Thus, instead of being penalized for their failure to follow proper safety procedures, hospitals appear to be profiting from it.

While hospitals assert the difficulty in reducing errors and improving patient safety, this begs the ultimate question – if the hospitals can’t implement protocols and procedures to safeguard patient care, who will?

Preventable hospital errors and deaths is a topic we monitor closely at Sommers Schwartz. To learn more, please read our previous blog posts on the subject, visit the Medical Malpractice area of our website, or contact one of our attorneys.