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Medical Errors Rank 3rd In Leading Cause Of Death In US: Study

Update Date: May 04, 2016 06:28 AM EDT

To date, heart disease and cancer top the list as the leading cause of death over at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the one immediately following that could be something odd if the list is appended. Based on a study conducted by researchers over at the John Hopkins Medicine, medical errors should be ranked third following heart disease and cancer. The latest study takes into consideration certain facts from a prior one which estimates about 250,000 Americans dying each year as a result of medical diagnostic errors.

The issues that usually fall under medical mistakes include the ones that cover surgical complications or even failed mixes of dosages as well as the type of medication given to a patient. While all of that is common these days, it will be interesting how the CDC will code medical errors, assuming they do heed the calls to have it included.

Right now there is no clear way to assess the rate of medical errors being done, mainly because the coding system to record death certificates are limited and do not capture occurrences such as communication breakdowns, diagnostic errors and poor judgment .

The study can be found in The BMJ which was published recently.

With the intent of broadening and digging deeper on the actual causes of death, there is a chance that death certificates could eventually go beyond the underlying cause of death. This means that questions could be added to find the root cause, a move that could render important data and information pertinent to wisely invested research programs.

"While no method of investigating and documenting preventable harm is perfect," the authors write, "some form of data collection of death due to medical error is needed to address the problem."

It does however offer an uncomfortable situation for the doctor who may end up reporting the cause of death as a result of a medical error. It goes way beyond adding a check box in forms and may require additional briefing for doctors to do such.

"If we can clarify for the public and lawmakers how big a problem these errors are, you would hope it would lead to more resources toward patient safety," said Dr. Eric Thomas, a professor of medicine at the University of Texas Houston Medical School. "

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