A shocking new study from Johns Hopkins Medicine has revealed medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States after heart disease and cancer. It also found that death certificates rarely list medical errors as cause of death because they only use insurance billing codes as identifiers. The result is that the frequency of fatal medical errors in the United States has gone unreported in annual statistics compiled by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), leaving the general public in the dark as to the severity of the problem.

The findings so alarmed the study’s authors that they wrote an open letter to the CDC asking the agency to begin tracking fatal medical errors as part of its yearly list of the main causes of death in the United States. Researchers also recommended changing death certificates to add medical errors as a reported cause of death so that better statistics can be generated on the issue.

Researchers analyzed previous studies and determined that more than 250,000 Americans die each year from medical errors. On the official CDC list, heart disease and cancer accounted for 600,000 deaths annually, followed by respiratory disease at 150,000 deaths. If medical errors were accurately represented in the CDC list, then, they would come in third place, moving respiratory disease down to fourth.

“Appropriately recognizing the role of medical error in health care has enormous implications for medicine,” said the study authors in the open letter to the CDC. “Currently, deaths due to medical error result only in internal discussions in confidential forums… Increasing the transparency of the magnitude of the problem can lead to the design of safer systems mitigating their frequency, visibility, and consequences… Reducing costly medical errors is critical towards the important goal of creating a safer, more reliable health care system.”

If you or a loved one have been harmed due to a medical error made during your care, please contact the attorneys in Sommers Schwartz’s Medical Malpractice Litigation Group today – you may be entitled to compensation.