Medical errors cause more than 250,000 deaths every year in the United States, enough to make them the nation’s third-leading cause of death if they were recognized in official statistics, experts say.
If the statistical rules change, medical mistakes would trail only heart disease and cancer as a leading cause of US fatalities.
“Incidence rates for deaths directly attributable to medical care gone awry haven’t been recognized in any standardized method for collecting national statistics,” says Martin Makary, professor of surgery at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Researchers performed their calculations based on eight years of US medical death rate data. The results reflect the fact that national death statistics are derived from a system built for another purpose: generating bills and collecting insurance payments.