National Safety Month: Accidents and Medical Errors Are Killing Too Many People

National Safety Month: Accidents and Medical Errors Are Killing Too Many People

Once again, we join with organizations and agencies around the country to promote public awareness of preventable deaths and life-altering accidents during June 2016 as National Safety Month. Spearheaded by the National Safety Council, all this month there will be all sorts of programs and resources advancing safety awareness and educating all of us on the real and present dangers of accidents at home, work, or school, as well as on our roads and highways.

June is National Safety Month — #SafeForLife

In June 2016, the campaign (hashtag “SafeForLife”) will be focusing upon a different theme for each week of the month:

Week 1: Stand Ready to Respond
Week 2: Be Healthy
Week 3: Watch Out for Dangers
Week 4: Share Roads Safely.

Preventable Deaths at Record Highs in the United States: Accidents are Fourth Highest Cause of Death

It’s important to get the word out.  Recent studies have shown that more Americans are dying from preventable injuries and accidents than ever before. There has been a 57% jump in accident deaths from 1992 to 2014.

Today, accidents are the 4th leading cause of death in the United States. Accidents like car crashes, semi truck crashes, sporting injuries, even slip-and-fall accidents are causing more deaths than ever before. This is unacceptable.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) compiles an annual list of the ten major causes of death in the United States, and the CDC research also studies how these causes of death factored in different age groups, regions of the country, etc.

According to the CDC’s 2014 research, accidents caused 136,053 deaths that year. Which means that all these people perished due to events that were preventable. Moreover, motor vehicle accidents and falls (slip and fall, trip and fall) alone caused almost half of these preventable deaths.

But there’s even more disconcerting information to consider during National Safety Month. It’s what the CDC is not including in its famous “Top Ten List” of causes of death each year. According to new research, medical errors are responsible for a shockingly high number of preventable deaths in this country.

Medical Errors are the Third Highest Cause of Death in the USA

That’s right. Mistakes made by doctors and health care professionals are known to be even more dangerous than accidents today. Medical errors are the THIRD leading cause of death in the United States, according to a new study published in the May 3, 2016 issue of BMJ, “Medical error—the third leading cause of death in the US,” 

Which means that the medical professionals in whom you trust your personal health as well as those of your loved ones are a real danger these days. The doctor or nurse you expect to help heal you may make a mistake and end your life. That’s reality, not a television show.

Last month, a letter was sent to the CDC by a group of physicians responsible for the BMJ article, including Martin A. Makary M.D., M.P.H., F.A.C.S.,  Professor of Surgery and Health Policy & Management of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, asking that the CDC include and recognize Medical Errors as the Third Leading Cause of Death on its list of most common causes of death in this country.

Read the full letter here; it states in part (emphasis added):

We define death due to medical error as death due to 1) an error in judgment, skill, or coordination of care, 2) a diagnostic error, 3) a system defect resulting in death or a failure to rescue a patient from death, or 4) a preventable adverse event. The prevalence of death due to medical error leading to patient deaths has been established in the literature. From studies that analyzed documented health records, we calculated a pooled incidence rate of 251,454 deaths per year.(1)

If we project this quantity into the total number of deaths in the year 2013 (2,596,993 deaths), they would account for 9.7% of all deaths in the nation.(2) This figure far surpasses the current third leading cause of death on the CDC’s most recent rank order. Moreover, the 251,454 estimate we derived from the literature is an underestimate because the studies conducted did not include outpatient deaths or deaths at home due to a medical error.

Currently, the CDC uses a deaths collection system that only tallies causes of death occurring from diseases, morbid conditions, and injuries.(3) The information on death certificates filled out by physicians, funeral directors, medical examiners, and coroners form the basis of an annually updated list of the most common causes of death. We found that the death certificate form has a major limitation. Since 1949, when the U.S. adopted the International Form of Medical Certificate of Cause of Death, the CDC has tabulated the national mortality statistics by assigning an International Classification of Disease (ICD) billing code to the cause of death.(4) As a result, causes of death not associated with an ICD code, such as human and system factors in medical care, are not captured.

Medical Malpractice and Personal Injury Law

From the perspective of personal injury lawyers, this isn’t shocking news because helping accident victims and getting justice for the causes of their injuries are the reason we come to work each day. Preventable deaths are especially heinous, given that these victims could have lived full lives and shared years in the future with their loved ones but for the negligence of another.

And it is a heart-wrenching tragedy when someone dies because of medical error and medical malpractice, betrayed by the very people that were entrusted to help them.

We’ve been aware of the alarming amount of malpractice being committed by health care professionals in Indiana and Illinois for awhile now. See our post from four years back, “Public Citizen Report on Doctor Discipline by State Medical Boards: It’s Not Good and Risk of Medical Malpractice Remains High.”  Four years later, things are apparently worse.

During this month, National Safety Month, let’s all work to learn more about the dangers that exist in our communities and daily life today — especially those that put our children at risk. Things we post about here on the blog, like work-related dangers along with those facing children and teens at their school and playground, are real — and serious. Be careful out there.

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