Posts Tagged ‘causes of death’

No Shortage of Medical Errors

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

We’ve all heard about the so-called “frivolous lawsuit” problem in America and about how doctors desperately need protection from greedy lawyers who are out to victimize them and the hospitals in which they practice.  Well, I took just a few minutes to check out a few facts. First, I found that, according to the CDC, the top ten causes of death in the U.S. for 2007 (the most recent complete data), including the number of deaths for each was:

1)   Heart disease: 616,067

2)   Cancer: 562,875

3)   Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 135,952

4)   Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 127,924

5)   Accidents (unintentional injuries): 123,706

6)   Alzheimer’s disease: 74,632

7)   Diabetes: 71,382

8)   Influenza and Pneumonia: 52,717

9)   Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 46,448

10) Septicemia: 34,828


Next, I tried to find out the number of deaths that are attributable to medical mistakes each year.  I was surprised at how hard it is to find that out!  You would think the CDC would have a category for medical errors but apparently they do not.  Wonder why?  Hmmm…

I did find a few sources, and among them was a fairly well footnoted article on Wikipedia here.  It is difficult to know exactly how many people are killed by medical errors each year, but according to the sources cited the answer seems to be somewhere between 44,000 per year on the low end and 200,000 on the high end.  If we average those two numbers, we come up with an estimate of 122,000 deaths per year.  (Wow!)


Now look back at the chart of the top ten causes of death as reported by the CDC above.  It would appear that medical errors are well within the top ten causes of death per year.  In fact, if we assume that those 122,000 deaths are “hidden” somewhere in the other causes in the chart and should therefore be subtracted out and reported separately, then deaths caused by medical errors could easily be as high as number 4 or 5 on the list!

I don’t think we need medical malpractice tort reform…I think we need medical competency reform!

PS.  The numbers above only discuss deaths caused by medical errors, not injuries.  I’ll try to blog about injuries soon.

Michael J. Swanson


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